The Mars Curiosity rover has peaked interest in celestial bodies. Looking back on humanity’s space aspirations allows us to see just how far we have come in the last 60 years.
The Apollo program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was the first and only program of it’s kind and was the first and only program to land humans on Earth’s Moon(1969 through 1972). Conceived during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Apollo began in earnest after President John F. Kennedy proposed the national goal of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” by 1969 in a May 25, 1961 address to Congress.
Kennedy’s goal was accomplished when the Apollo 11 mission (astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) landed the Lunar Module ,”Eagle”, on the Moon and walked on its surface (July 20, 1969).
“Walter Cronkite: “Neil Armstrong, 38 year-old American, standing on the surface of the moon, ont his July 20th , nineteen hundred sixty-nine.”
Neil Armstrong: “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”
Venera 9 (Russian) was a USSR unmanned space mission to Venus. It consisted of an orbiter and a lander and was launched on June 8, 1975. The orbiter was the first spacecraft to orbit Venus, while the lander was the first to return images from the surface of another planet. This makes Russia the second country to successfully land on a celestial body.
The Viking Program
Viking 1 was the first of two spacecraft sent to Mars as part of NASA’s Viking program. It was the first spacecraft to successfully land on Mars.
Mars Pathfinder and Sojourner rover
Mars Pathfinder was an American spacecraft that landed a base station with a roving probe on Mars in 1997. It consisted of a lander, renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station and a wheeled robotic rover named Sojourner.
Spirit and Opportunity
Launched from Earth in 2003, both Rovers greatly exceeded their life expectancy; becoming one of the most successful JPL missions in history. The amount of data collected by each rover is still being reviewed and new discoveries are made regularly.
Huygens probe/Cassini probe
The Huygens probe (Cassini) was specifically designed to survive landing on land or liquid. It was thoroughly drop-tested to make sure it could withstand impact and continue functioning for at least three minutes. However, due to the low impact speed , it continued providing data for more than two hours after it landed.
The Curiosity rover is a robotic, car-sized rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars. Curiosity carries a radioisotope powered, mobile scientific laboratory and is part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory. The MSL mission has four main scientific goals: investigation of the Martian climate, geology, and whether Mars could have ever supported life, including investigation of the role of water and its planetary habitability. Curiosity has been billed as humanity greatest chance yet to find life on another planet.
Into the future
With many more planned rover and lander missions in the coming years. Along with the first Manned mission to Mars in the 2030’s. Humanity’s need to expand from our lonely blue marble has never been more promising.