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To MARS with MER - History of Mars Exploration


In 1877 the Italian Giovanni Schiaparelli looked through his telescope and thought he saw "canali" meaning "channels." Wishful thinking translated that into English as "canals."

In America, the wealthy Percival Lowell dedicated a new observatory high on "Mars Hill", above Flagstaff, Arizona, to the study of Mars and the alien civilization he and many of his contemporaries assumed had built them.

They were right about one thing water was and is key to life on Mars.

It took spacecraft to deliver the first real facts about the red planet.

Exploring Mars for real depended on the life and work of this boy, Robert H. Goddard, often called the "Father of American Rocketry."

As a high school student he read one of the science fiction books inspired by Percival Lowell’s Mars Mania, "The War of the Worlds", by H. G. Wells.

At university, he mastered the math and physics to realize his dream. He wanted humans to travel to Mars, but instead told people he was targeting the moon, so they’d not think him too crazy.

Out west, Goddard began a series of experiments that ultimately led to many of the key components of today’s rockets. It was a case of trial... and error, test... crash and burn, try and try again... and, ultimately, success!

When rockets like those which launched the recent Mars missions take off, you can see Goddard’s contributions...

the use of liquid fuel...

multiple stages to get up into space...

and gyroscopes for navigation.

Mission Links:
 • Athena Mars Exploration Rovers
 • NASA Mars Exploration Rovers
 • 2001 Mars Odyssey
 • Mars Express
 • Mars Global Surveyor
 • Mars Pathfinder
 • Viking Project
 • Mariner
 • Robert H. Goddard
 • Robert H. Goddard
 • Robert H. Goddard
 • Rockets
Additional Links:
 • Mars Exploration Homepage
 • JPL's Solar System Exploration
 • The Nine Planets
 • Views of the Solar System
 • Windows to the Universe
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