Humanity has populated Mars with a variety of robots over the years. From rovers to landers to orbiting spacecraft, there’s been a lot – and it can be overwhelming. Read on to see all the missions still active on and around Mars today.
In the late 1960s, when people were asked when humanity would colonize Mars, most said within a decade. It’s clear that off the excitement of the Moon landings, the red planet seemed obtainable. And according to NASA Astronaut Chris Hadfield, it was.
“We could send people to Mars decades ago,” Hadfield told Business Insider. “The technology that took us to the moon and back when I was just a kid — that technology can take us to Mars.” Knowing the risks of a long deep space journey and being dumped on a world with conditions harsher than any on Earth, he went on to explain we didn’t go because ‘the majority of the astronauts wouldn’t make it.’
It’s a long 34 million-mile slog through space to reach Mars (when it’s closest to Earth). A trip that could take anywhere around seven months, traveling at about 24,600 mph or 39,600 kph (the speed of a spacecraft leaving Earth’s atmosphere). This increases the risks of mechanical failures, radiation, starvation, and many other unforeseen problems.
Instead, humanity turned to robots.
Since the 1970s, scientists have sent three types of spacecraft to Mars. One kind, called orbiters, take images as they orbit around the planet. Another, called landers, provide images and data from their fixed landing spots. And lastly, rovers specialize in exploration and are remotely operated by teams on Earth.
There have been 30 dedicated space missions to Mars. These are the 12 that remain active:
|Type||Name||Agency||Launch Date||Date entered orbit|
|Orbiter||2001 Mars Odyssey||🇺🇸 NASA||7 April 2001||24 October 2001|
|Orbiter||Mars Express||🇪🇺 ESA||2 June 2003||25 December 2003|
|Orbiter||Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter||🇺🇸 NASA||12 August 2005||10 March 2006|
|Orbiter||MAVEN||🇺🇸 NASA||18 November 2013||22 September 2014|
|Orbiter||ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter||🇪🇺 ESA|
|14 March 2016||19 October 2016|
|Orbiter||Emirates Mars Mission (Hope)||🇦🇪 UAESA||19 July 2020||9 February 2021|
|Orbiter||Tianwen 1||🇨🇳 CNSA||23 July 2020||10 February 2021|
|Rover||Curiosity||🇺🇸 NASA||26 November 2011||6 August 2012|
|Rover||Perseverance||🇺🇸 NASA||30 July 2020||18 February 2021|
|Rover||Zhurong||🇨🇳 CNSA||23 July 2020||1 June 2021|
|Lander||InSight||🇺🇸 NASA||5 May 2018||26 November 2018|
|Helicopter||Ingenuity (part of Percy)||🇺🇸 NASA||30 July 2020||18 February 2021|
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