- from Mars
Plenty of fantasy and artistic energy have gone into books and films about Mars. Actual scientists and engineers have been exploring the real-life planet. Their work began over 60 years ago.
And it hasn’t been easy.
The process started in 1960. That’s when the Soviet Union (now Russia) tried to launch a Mars probe. (A probe is an instrument or device. It 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 changed direction by mistake. It began 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, NASA launched Mariner 4. (This was the same year Mariner 3 failed.) The mission was a success. Images the probe returned to Earth were the first ever of the Martian surface.