On Nov. 28, NASA marked the 50th anniversary of the historic Mariner-4 mission to Mars, which produced more than 20 images of the planet’s craters and gave researchers the closest look at the planet to date. The mission succeeded where six other previous missions – one by NASA and five from the Soviet Union – fell short.
With Orion test flight, human travel to Mars appears to be back at the forefront of NASA’s for the coming decades. However, the track record has been spotty as citing NASA’s own log, The Times of India reported that of 43 attempts to reach Mars, 23 were unsuccessful despite some coming very close.
Following the Mariner-4, the 1971 Mars 3 Orbiter/Lander landed on the planet but transmitted data for only 20 seconds before shuttering down. Four years later, the U.S. launched the Viking 1 and 2, which obtained scenic photos of the planet. In, 1996, the U.S. landed the Pathfinder rover on the planet and in 2011, the Curiosity Rover was hailed as another notch in NASA’s Mars endeavors.
This year, India “managed to send the world’s cheapest interplanetary orbiter to Mars,” according to The Times of India.
The ultimate goal of Mars exploration is to conclusively determine the presence of life and whether life can be sustained, as Earth’s explorers seek to colonize the planet should that prove to be the case. However, evidence is far from conclusive that Mars is inhabitable, despite images that may suggest otherwise. Chemical tests conducted during by the 1975 Viking mission were negative for signs of life.