Program 4 MISSIONS TO MARS

IN THE 19TH CENTURY, MARS-THE RED PLANET-WAS THOUGHT TO BE A PLACE OF HUGE CANALS AND ALIENS...

IN THE 20TH CENTURY, HUMANS EXPLORED THE PLANET CLOSE UP WITH SPACECRAFT, AND FOUND IT LIFELESS.

...AND IN THE 21ST CENTURY, YOU MAY BE ONE OF THE FIRST EXPLORERS TO LAND ON MARS.

IN THIS VIDEO...

chapter head title: THE RED PLANET Fiction becomes Fact

THE STORY OF HOW RED PLANET FICTION BECAME MARTIAN FACTS...

chapter head title: THE TRIUMPHS OF MARS PATHFINDER AND GLOBAL SURVEYOR...

THE TRIUMPHS OF MARS PATHFINDER AND GLOBAL SURVEYOR...

chapter head title: WATER ON MARS?

AND WHAT WE'VE LEARNED ABOUT THE PAST AND PRESENT STATUS OF WATER-AND LIFE-ON MARS...

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series titles
PASSPORT TO THE SOLAR SYSTEM
program 4
MISSIONS TO MARS

***

chapter head: The Red Planet-Fiction becomes Fact

ANCIENT PEOPLES RECOGNIZED MARS, THE RED PLANET, FOR ITS DISTINCTIVE COLOR AND MOTION IN THE SKY.

EVERY YEAR, WE ALL STILL SPEAK OF MARS... KNOW WHY?

THE WORD "MARS" IS THE ROOT OF OUR NAME FOR THE MONTH OF-MARCH!

IN THE PAST FEW YEARS OUR UNDERSTANDING OF MARS HAS BEEN TRANSFORMED BY A SERIES OF SPECTACULARLY SUCCESSFUL MISSIONS...

THANKS TO MARS GLOBAL SURVEYOR, WE NOW KNOW THE VERTICAL PROFILE OF THE PLANET, TO A PRECISION RIVALING THAT FOR EARTH...

WITH A CLEVER BLEND OF RADIO SCIENCE AND REMOTE SENSING WE CAN EVEN LOOK BELOW THE SURFACE TO SEE THE THICKNESS OF THE MARTIAN CRUST.

AND ON THAT SURFACE IN 1997, "SOJOURNER"-THE FIRST ROVER ON MARS-BECAME A MECHANICAL GEOLOGIST, ROLLING UP TO A SERIES OF ROCKS AND SNIFFING OUT THEIR CHEMISTRY.

THEN IN THE FIRST YEAR OF THE NEW CENTURY CAME AN ANNOUNCEMENT THAT RESEARCHERS THOUGHT THEY MIGHT BE SEEING EVIDENCE OF GULLIES MADE COMPARATIVELY RECENTLY BY LIQUID WATER...

WHAT A TRANSFORMATION IN OUR VIEW OF THE RED PLANET FROM JUST ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO!

THEN, THE BEST WE HAD WERE FUZZY TELESCOPIC VIEWS.

IN 1877 THE ITALIAN GIOVANNI SCHIAPARELLI THOUGHT HE SAW "CANALI." MEANING "CHANNELS."

WISHFUL THINKING TRANSLATED THAT INTO ENGLISH AS "CANALS."

IN AMERICA THE WEALTHY PERCIVAL LOWELL DEDICATED A NEW OBSERVATORY 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.

THE AMERICAN "MARINER" MISSIONS SHOWED THERE WERE NO CANALS OR ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS...

BUT THEY DID REVEAL "VALLES MARINERIS", A HUGE CANYON NAMED FOR THE SPACECRAFT.

THEN IN 1976, TWO "VIKING" SPACECRAFT ARRIVED AT MARS.

EACH INCLUDED A LANDER AND AN ORBITER.

VIKING SHOWED US A DEAD SURFACE AND LOTS OF CRATERS...

BUT ALSO SIGNS OF FLOWING WATER IN THE PAST, LIKE THESE TEAR DROP-SHAPED ISLANDS, AND WHAT LOOK LIKE RIVER CHANNELS CARVED BY STREAMS.

SO WHERE DID ALL THE WATER THAT MIGHT HAVE MADE THOSE CHANNELS GO?

(ROCKET LAUNCH)

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 ROCKET LIKE THOSE WHICH LAUNCHED THE RECENT MARS MISSIONS TAKES OFF, YOU CAN SEE GODDARD'S CONTRIBUTIONS...

THE USE OF LIQUID FUEL...

MULTIPLE STAGES TO GET UP INTO SPACE...

AND GYROSCOPES FOR NAVIGATION.

GODDARD LOVED INDEPENDENCE DAY FIREWORKS... AND ON JULY 4TH 1997, PATHFINDER'S RETRO-ROCKETS BURNED BRIGHT OVER MARS.

THIS IS THE STORY OF THE MISSION AND WHAT PATHFINDER DISCOVERED.

IT ALL BEGAN WITH PLANS FOR A SMALL AND LIGHTWEIGHT ROVER.

THE SPACECRAFT COULDN'T CARRY MUCH ROCKET FUEL. INSTEAD, FOR THE FIRST TIME ON AN AMERICAN MISSION, THE PLAN WAS TO USE AIR BAGS, AND BOUNCE THE SPACECRAFT DOWN ON MARS.

THEN, AS NASA ANIMATION SHOWED, THE SPACECRAFT WOULD UNFOLD... THE ROVER WOULD ROLL DOWN... AND PLACE ITS ROCK SNIFFER ON THE MOST INTERESTING TARGETS.

BEHIND THE SLICK COMPUTER GRAPHICS THE REALITY OF THE MISSION WAS YEARS OF HARD WORK AND TESTS, AND TESTS, AND TESTS OF THE NEW TECHNIQUES.

THE PATHFINDER TEAM DID ITS DARNDEST TO RIP THE KEVLAR BAGS TO PIECES.

THEY BASHED THEM DOWN ROCKY SLOPES TO SEE HOW MUCH THEY COULD HANDLE.

THEY DROPPED PROTOTYPE SPACECRAFT UNDER PARACHUTES.

BACK AT JPL, THE ROVER WAS PUT THROUGH ITS PACES.

AS A RESULT OF A STUDENT COMPETITION, IT NOW HAD A NAME-"SOJOURNER", AFTER THE 19TH CENTURY ABOLITIONIST HEROINE.

NASA Mission Contoller:
"...Zero, and lift-off of the Delta rocket..."

IN A SPECTACULAR NIGHT LAUNCH, IT WAS OFF TO MARS...

BACK AT JPL, THE PATHFINDER TEAM JUST KEPT ON WORKING, TESTING SCENARIOS FOR WHAT MIGHT PERHAPS GO WRONG WHEN THEY LANDED.

THEY REHEARSED HOW TO DRIVE THE ROVER WITH SPECIAL 3-D SOFTWARE AND FANCY GLASSES... AND TONY SPEAR WORRIED ABOUT THE ALL-IMPORTANT ENTRY, DESCENT AND LANDING SEQUENCE...

name title:
TONY SPEAR
Project Manager, Mars Pathfinder, JPL, NASA / Caltech

Five years of work now boils down to 5 minutes for Entry, Descent and Landing...

ON JULY 4TH, ALL EYES WERE ON PATHFINDER, EAVESDROPPING ON THE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS IN MISSION CONTROL.

(actuality scenes)
NASA engineer, voice over:
Comms, a weak signal is coming in...

Roger that...

OK, we've got a good strong signal...

(wild cheers)

PATHFINDER LANDED SAFELY...

OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, SURPASSING THE NOMINAL LIFETIME OF THE MISSION 7 TIMES OVER, SOJOURNER ROLLED UP TO ROCKS LIKE "BARNACLE BILL"... "YOGI"... "SCOOBY DOO" AND "WEDGE", "REN" AND "STIMPY."

name title:
JOY CRISP
Rover Scientist, JPL, NASA / Caltech

Most of the names have been cartoon characters or animals or things that the rocks are shaped like, so. It just makes it very easy to talk about the rocks and remember which ones they are when we're discussing what to do with the rover or where the rover ended up.

IN A WRAP-UP PRESS CONFERENCE, MATT GOLOMBEK SAID SOME OF THE IMAGES SEEMED TO SHOW THAT WATER HAD STAYED LIQUID ON MARS LONG ENOUGH TO CREATE BOULDERS CONTAINING SMALL, ROUNDED ROCKS-CALLED "CONGLOMERATES."

name title:
MATT GOLOMBEK
Project Scientist, Mars Pathfinder, JPL, NASA / Caltech

And if that's an old rock, that suggests, without question, that the environment on Mars was warmer and wetter in the past, to the point that liquid water was stable with the atmosphere. And as you now that's the one requisite for life. That's tremendously exciting.

WHILE PATHFINDER AND SURVEYOR WERE MAKING HISTORY ON MARS, A SECOND AMERICAN SPACECRAFT, GLOBAL SURVEYOR, WAS ORBITING OVERHEAD.

THE RESULTS? A COMPLETELY NEW AND REVOLUTIONARY VIEW OF MARS.

ONE KEY INSTRUMENT HAS BEEN "MOLA"-THE "MARS ORBITER LASER ALTIMETER."

CIRCLING THE PLANET, "MOLA" FIRES A BURST OF LASER LIGHT DOWN TO THE MARTIAN SURFACE.

BY KNOWING THE SPACECRAFT'S POSITION AND HOW LONG IT TAKES FOR THE RETURN SIGNAL, YOU CAN CALCULATE THE EXACT ELEVATION OF THE MARTIAN SURFACE.

MOLA RETURNS 900,000 MEASUREMENTS A DAY.

IT'S SHOWN US THE EXACT HEIGHT OF THE GIANT VOLCANO, OLYMPUS MONS...

WE NOW KNOW THAT WHILE THE SOUTHERN PART OF THE PLANET IS HIGH... HEAVILY CRATERED... AND OLD...

THE NORTH IS COMPARATIVELY YOUNG... LOW... AND FLAT.

IN THIS FALSE COLOR VIEW, LOWER ELEVATIONS ARE BLUE-HIGHER ARE RED.

THROUGH "MOLA" WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO FOLLOW CHANNELS FROM VALLES MARINERIS OUT INTO THE NORTHERN LOWLANDS.

RESEARCHERS WONDER IF WATER ONCE FLOWED DOWN THROUGH HERE, OUT TO A VAST MARTIAN OCEAN.

name title:
JIM GARVIN
MOLA Science Team / Mars Program Scientist, NASA HQ

Just like Lewis and Clark charted our continent nearly two hundred years ago, Mars Global Surveyor and the measurements we're making are charting our brother planet. Which is a target, we believe, for human exploration. And this charting, is being done at almost unimaginably fine scales. So our legacy now is to inventory and capture the nature of the skin of Mars so that future robots and people can go there, and live and work on that body.

LAST BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST IS THE "MARS ORBITER CAMERA."

BUILT FROM SPARES LEFT OVER FROM AN EARLIER MISSION, IT'S BEEN SENDING BACK PICTURES OF OBJECTS AS SMALL AS FIVE FEET.

IT'S SHOWN US DUST DEVILS...

A HAPPY FACE...

A VALENTINE'S DAY GREETING CARD...

EACH ONE OF THESE-AS WELL AS THE INFAMOUS "FACE ON MARS"-ARE NATURAL ROCK FORMATIONS SHAPED BY BLOWING WIND, SAND AND DUST.

SOME RESEARCHERS THINK THERE ARE ALSO CLEAR SIGNS THAT WATER GUSHED OUT FROM BELOW SURFACE AT THE EDGE OF CANYONS AND CRATERS, AND FORMED GULLIES, WASHING ROCKS AND DIRT DOWNHILL, LEAVING DISTINCTIVE PATTERNS...

THEY EVEN THINK THESE GULLIES MAY HAVE FORMED VERY RECENTLY-THAT PERHAPS THERE'S LIQUID WATER QUITE CLOSE TO THE SURFACE TODAY!

AS SO OFTEN IN CUTTING-EDGE SCIENCE, "MORE RESEARCH IS NEEDED..."

BUT, PERHAPS, AFTER A CENTURY OF SPECULATION, AT LAST WE'VE FOUND WATER-CARRYING CHANNELS ON MARS THAT ARE SCIENCE FACT, NOT SCIENCE FANTASY.

WAITING IN THE WINGS-A SET OF MISSIONS DESIGNED TO FOLLOW UP ON THE SUCCESSES OF VIKING, PATHFINDER AND GLOBAL SURVEYOR... LEADING, PERHAPS, TO THE FIRST HUMAN MISSIONS TO MARS.

NEXT UP, TWIN ROVERS NAMED "ATHENA" TO LAND USING AIRBAGS, LIKE PATHFINDER, IN 2004.

THESE ROVERS WOULD BE MUCH LARGER THAN SOJOURNER, AND ABLE TO COVER 100 METERS EACH DAY.

ON BOARD, A ROCK ABRASION TOOL, NICKNAMED "RAT", TO EXPOSE FRESH ROCK SURFACES FOR STUDY, AND NEXT-GENERATION SENSORS TO ASSAY THE COMPOSITION OF THE ROCKS.

ONE GOAL, TO FIND OUT MORE PRECISELY HOW MUCH WATER ONCE WAS HERE... AND HOW SUITABLE MARS ONCE WAS FOR LIFE.

BASED ON THE SUCCESS OF SOJOURNER, MATT GOLOMBECK IS SURE THAT ROVERS ARE THE WAY TO GO.

Matt Golombek:
If you want the ability to sample different materials out in the field, if you want the ability to go up to those different soil types, you have to have mobility. That's really needed for a mission that's kind of like Pathfinder or a longer range rover mission.

SOMETIME LATER IN THE DECADE, THERE ARE HOPES FOR A SAMPLE RETURN MISSION, TO BRING A CHUNK OF MARS BACK TO EARTH.

ALREADY NASA HAS BEEN EVALUATING SPACESUITS FOR FUTURE EXPLORERS, SEEN HERE BEING FLIGHT-TESTED ON ONE OF NASA'S "VOMIT COMETS."

A MARTIAN SUIT WOULD NEED TO BE RUGGED ENOUGH TO WITHSTAND SHARP EDGES, AS ITS WEARERS SEARCHED FOR ROCKS AND FOSSILS.

PERHAPS ONE DAY, YOU-OR ONE OF YOUR CLASSMATES-WILL BE MEMBERS OF THE CREW FOR ONE OF FIRST HUMAN... "MISSIONS TO MARS."

Matt Golombek:
You wake up early and you look and you see that salmon-colored sky with those clouds whisping across the surface.

You'd see the sun rise bright and orange through that salmon-colored dust filled sky in the morning, and you'd see it rise up. And the sky would never be blue, it would remain that sort of pinkish-salmony color.

You look out at the pictures of this rock-strewn field, and you could imagine walking on that surface from the rover's wheel tracks in the soil, you could imagine the footprints that you would leave. And you could imagine going over to Yogi and Barnacle Bill, and looking at them up close and looking around, you could kind of imagine what the surface would be like to walk on and what you would look at as you did that.

And finally, if you could be on Mars without a spacesuit, which of course you can't, we now have the data from the weather station to actually feel what it would be like to be on Mars. Viking just didn't have enough sensors and they couldn't measure fast enough. But we know that if we were standing on the surface, our feet would be comfortably warm, band our head would need (laughs) a big hat and a scarf, it would be cold up there. 20 or so degrees of variance between the surface and where you're standing at, and then just standing there for a moment or two, we'd get 10-15 degree temperature swings just as we were standing there you'd be cold and hot in an instant. And finally just sort of feel these light breezes that were blowing on the surface.

And so those really kind of make it into a place where you could actually imagine being on the surface. And that's kind of fun... (laughs)