Space ExplorationMars Exploration Program, Why are we there?

Why Mars?

Among the many discoveries about Mars, one stands out above all others: the possible presence of liquid water on Mars. Water is key because almost everywhere we find water on Earth, we find life. If Mars once had liquid water, or still does today, it's compelling to ask whether any microscopic life forms could have developed on its surface.


Since the first close-up picture of Mars in 1965, spacecraft voyages have revealed a vast amount of similarities with Earth, nevertheless, the planet is different enough to contest our observations of what makes a planet work. Every time we feel close to understanding Mars, new discoveries send us straight back to the drawing board to revise existing theories. Like Earth, Mars has polar ice caps and clouds in its atmosphere, seasonal weather patterns, volcanoes, canyons and other recognizable features. However, conditions onMars vary uncontrollably from what we know on our own planet. Over the past three decades, spacecraft have shown that Mars is rocky, cold, and inactive beneath its obscure sky. Today's Martian wasteland demonstrates that there was formerly an unstable world where volcanoes once fumed, craters existed, and flash floods arose. Mars continues to throw out something new with each landing or orbital pass made by spacecraft.[1]

About Mars

The Mars Exploration Program seeks to understand whether Mars ever was, presently is, or can be, a livable world. To find out, scientists have been observing how geologic, climatic, and other processes have worked to shape Mars and its environment throughout time. Mars is similar to Earth in many ways, having many of the same structures that distinguish our home world. Like Earth, Mars has an atmosphere, a hydrosphere, a cryosphere and a lithosphere. This means that Mars has systems of air, water, ice, and geology that all interact to produce the Martian environment. We still to this day do not know whether Mars ever developed an environment in which life could thrive. Scientists are determined to figure out whether there was ever life on Mars.[1]


The Mars Technology Program (MTP) is responsible for technology-development plans that are consistent with NASA's Mars Exploration vision, and implementing and infusing those technologies into future missions. Technology development makes missions possible. Each Mars mission is part of a continuing chain of innovation: each relies on past missions for new technologies and contributes its own innovations to future missions. This chain allows NASA to continue to push the boundaries of what is currently possible, while relying on proven technologies as well.[1]

Most Important Present Missions

Mars Odyssey (2001)
The Odyssey has served as the primary means of communications for NASA’s Mars surface explorers in the past decade and will continue that role for the upcoming Curiosity rover. About 85 percent of images and other data from NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have reached Earth via communications relay by Odyssey. The orbiter helped analyze potential landing sites for the rovers and performed the same task for NASA's Phoenix mission, which landed on Mars in May, 2008. Odyssey aided NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which reached Mars in March 2006, by monitoring atmospheric conditions during months when the newly arrived orbiter used aerobraking to alter its orbit into the desired shape. On July 31, 2008, NASA announced that the Phoenix lander confirmed thepresence of water on Mars,as predicted in 2002 based on data from the Odyssey orbiter.[2]

Mars Exploration Rover (2003)

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MER) is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, exploring the planet Mars. It began in 2003 with the sending of the two rovers MER-A Spirit and MER-B Opportunity to explore the Martian surface and geology. The mission's scientific objective was to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars. The mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, which includes three previous successful landers: the two Viking program landers in 1976 and Mars Pathfinder probe in 1997.[4]


(Most Pictures are from source 3)

  1. "Mars Exploration Program." Mars Exploration Program. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <>.
  2. "Mars Odyssey: Mission." Mars Exploration Program. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <>.
  3. "Online NewsHour: Mars Exploration Rovers | Slide show: Opportunity Explores Victoria Crater | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <>.