“By NASA’s tally, the United States, the former Soviet Union, Russia, the European Space Agency, China, and Japan have tried to reach Mars 43 times. Of those attempted flybys, orbits, and landings, fewer than one third succeeded,” writes Marc Kaufman, journalist and author, in USA Today. “Only six missions to the surface of Mars have successfully landed, sent home data, and completed their tasks.
“What America and NASA have done on and around Mars demonstrates a level of unique excellence,” adds Kaufman, who has called Curiosity “he most ambitious, most scientifically promising, most technologically complex, and most costly Mars mission to date.”
Read information about all the missions to Mars from Earth, dating back to 1960, in the “Chronology of Mars Exploration” at http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/chronology_mars.html
Speaking of history, Curiosity is being called a continuation of NASA’s Viking mission of 1975. The primary mission objectives of the Viking 1 and Viking 2 spacecraft, each of which were outfitted with an orbiter and a lander, were to “obtain images of the Martian surface, characterize the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface, and search for evidence of life.” Similarly, Curiosity’s main objective is to determine the habitability of Mars; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) defines 8 objectives (http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/science/objectives/) that fall under that principle goal.
Viking 1, the first of the two spacecraft launched to Mars under the Viking program, became the first spacecraft to land successfully on Mars and perform its mission; it also held the record for the longest Mars surface mission, which spanned 6 Earth years and 116 days from landing through surface mission termination, until the Opportunity Rover broke its record on 19 May 2010.
This geek can’t wait until the day that man first steps foot onto martian soil.