Today in 1964, NASA launched the Mariner 4 spacecraft. It performed the first ever flyby of Mars and was the first craft to return pictures of another planet from deep space.
Today in 1996, David S. McKay, on behalf of NASA, claimed to have found evidence of life on the Martian ALH84001 meteorite. ALH84001 was discovered in Allan Hills, Antarctica on December 27, 1984. It is thought to be over 4 billion years old, making it one of the oldest Martian meteorites to be discovered. As for the evidence of life... it created a huge media uproar and sparked a renewed interest, but ultimately most of McKay's theories have been proven to have been possible without life forms. McKay maintains that his theories are still plausible evidence of life on Mars, but most of the scientific…
Today in 1988, Phobos II, the last space probe to be designed by the Soviet Union, was launched. It was designed to explore the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. The mission was mostly unsuccessful. Although data was gathered on Phobos, Mars, and the Sun during its cruise, Phobos II malfunctioned before landing, and contact was ultimately lost. There has yet to be a successful probe launch to Phobos. Image Credit: NASA
Today in 1997, the MESUR Pathfinder landed on the surface of Mars. Upon landing, it was renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station, in honor of the late astrophysicist. One day after touching down, it deployed the Mars Rover Sojourner. The mission was expected to last between a week and a month, but lasted almost three months, gathering far more data than was originally planned. Pathfinder and Sojourner were used as major plot devices in the films Red Planet (2000) and The Martian (2015). Image Credit: Wikipedia
Today in 1911, a martian meteorite crashed near the El Nakhla El Bahariya village in Egypt. The dubbed "Nakhla" meteorite was the first to suggest the presence of water on Mars. It also showed circumstantial evidence that life could possibly exist, but nothing factual. Image Credit: Wikipedia
Although the atmosphere on Mars seems to push against everything that we as humans know to be life sustaining, scientists continue to push forward toward finding a way to colonize the planet. It seems nearly impossible but a recent Science paper published believes bacteria could help bring life to the red planet. Scientists from an international team studied cyanobacteria which is a large group of organisms that are known to survive in very extreme environments such as Antarctica, Yellow Stone National Park the Mojave Desert and deep within the ocean. One of the biggest families of bacteria on earth, scientists have been able to date…
Today in 2003, NASA launched the Mars Exploration Rover - A, or Spirit. It took nearly 7 months for the rover to land on Mars, and once it did it began its planned 90 day exploration mission. Spirit would go on to last 2,269 days, sending its last transmission on March 22, 2010. During its run, Spirit (and its counterpart Opportunity, which landed on the opposite side of Mars) was able to collect a wide array of data about Martian weather, terrain, mineral deposits and layout. In honor of its accomplishments, asteroid 37452 was renamed Spirit. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Today in 2002, Elon Musk founded the Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX. The goal of the company is to find an efficient way to colonize Mars. Over the years, SpaceX has set multiple records for being the first private company to reach orbit. They also have several developmental contracts with NASA. Currently in development is the BFR, a fully reusable passenger rocket that is set to debut sometime in the early 2020s. Image Credit: Tech Crunch