Astro Glossary

  • Mars Climate Orbiter

    A spacecraft that was designed to provide detailed information about the atmospheric conditions on Mars, including temperature, dust, clouds, water vapor, and carbon dioxide levels. The mission failed when it approached too close to Mars and was destroyed as it plunged into the planet’s atmosphere.

  • Mars exploration, human

    NASA is drafting plans to send astronauts to Mars as early as the late 2030s. Such a mission would require about two years using present technology, with about half of that time at Mars. Scientists will study the Martian surface and climate, and look for evidence of life, either past or present. Many scientific and technological hurdles must to overcome to undertake such a mission, however.

  • Mars Express

    A European Space Agency craft in orbit around Mars. Pictures from the mission have provided evidence of frozen water on the Red Planet.

  • Mars Global Surveyor

    The Mars Global Surveyor mission was designed as a rapid, low-cost recovery of the Mars Observer mission objectives. Objectives included high resolution imaging of the surface and studies of the magnetic field, topography, climate, weather, and gravity. It arrived at Mars in 1997, began its primary mission in 1999, and operated until late 2006, far exceeding its goals.

  • Mars Hope Mission

    Hope is a Mars orbiter built by the United Arab Emirates. Scheduled for launch in July 2020, it will enter orbit around the Red Planet in February 2021. It will monitor the Martian weather and study how Mars is losing its atmosphere to space. It is the first UAE space mission beyond Earth orbit, and the beginning of a 100-year plan to establish a colony on Mars.

  • Mars InSight Mission

    InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport) is a Mars lander, scheduled for launch as early as May 5, 2018, with landing on November 26. It will use a suite of instruments, including a seismometer and heat probe, to study the Martian interior. Its observations should reveal more about the planet's structure and its evolution.

  • Mars MAVEN Mission

    MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) entered orbit around Mars on September 21, 2014. It is designed to study the planet’s upper atmosphere and its interaction with the solar wind. The craft’s findings may help planetary scientists understand how Mars lost most of its early atmosphere and water.

  • Mars Odyssey

    2001 Mars Odyssey is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. The mission is mapping the distribution of many chemical elements and minerals on the martian surface. Its maps led to the discovery of vast amounts of water ice just below the surface in the planet’s polar regions.

  • Mars Pathfinder

    The second mission from NASA’s Discovery Program. It carried a set of scientific instruments to analyze the Martian atmosphere, climate, and geology and the composition of Mars’ rocks and soil. It also carried the first Mars rover, Sojourner, which operated for about 30 days.

  • Mars Perseverance Rover

    Perseverance is the rover that forms the Mars 2020 mission. It is scheduled for launch in July 2020 and arrival at Mars in February 2021. Based on the Curiosity rover design, Perseverance will hunt for evidence of past microscopic life in Jezero Crater, which was filled with water in the distant past. Perseverance also will collect 30 samples of Martian rock and dust for possible return to Earth by a future mission. And it carries a small helicopter to test the technology for future missions.

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