- from Mars
Plenty of fantasy and artistic energy have gone into books and films about Mars. But actual scientists and engineers have been exploring the real-life planet for over 60 years.
And it hasn’t been easy.
The process began in 1960. That’s when the Soviet Union (now Russia) made two attempts to launch a Mars probe. (A probe is an instrument or device that physically explores or examines something.) The idea was to send back images of the surface of Mars. Both tries failed. Two years later, the Soviets tried again. This time they got to within about 120,000 miles of Mars. That’s where the spacecraft mistakenly veered off to an orbit around the sun.
On November 5, 1964, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched Mariner 3. Like earlier probes, the spacecraft was supposed to send pictures of Mars’s surface back to Earth. But it too failed.
Scientists and engineers learned from every failure. They never gave up. On November 28, 1964 – the same year Mariner 3 failed – NASA launched Mariner 4. The mission was a success. Images the probe returned to Earth were the first ever of the Martian surface.