How Spacecraft Landed on Mars

spacecraft landed on mars

Spacecraft are vehicles designed for travel in outer space, usually piloted or unpiloted and carrying scientific instruments for study and observation.

China’s Tianwen 1 probe successfully reached Mars on May 14 and unloaded its six-wheeled rover Zhurong, named after the Chinese god of fire. To successfully land, retro rockets and landing legs were utilized.

Mariner 9

Even today’s spacecraft can be unpredictable, but in 1971 they were even more so. Mariner 9 arrived on Mars after 167 days on October 14, 1971 but was met with a global dust storm that obscured all views.

NASA instead sent a new program to their spacecraft with instructions to wait out the storm until its dust had cleared away, which it did in January 1972, revealing the Olympus Mons volcano, with canyons created by wind erosion, as well as many peaks of Olympus Mons itself.

The spacecraft also discovered evidence of flowing water on Mars’ surface and reignited speculation regarding life on that planet. Furthermore, its photographs helped pave the way for Viking landers.

Beagle 2

Beagle 2, the British spacecraft launched into space by British scientists, is believed to be present on Mars but scientists haven’t located its rover yet. Images captured by MRO orbiter, which entered Mars orbit in March 2006, suggests Beagle 2 may have successfully landed intact with all solar panels fully deployed upon landing.

ESA’s ExoMars mission, consisting of three instruments – Trace Gas Orbiter, Entry Descent and Landing Demonstrator and Rover itself – have made significant strides since this discovery.

Beagle 2’s discovery highlights the need to take seriously the lander component of future missions, not viewing it simply as an optional payload add-on. Lessons learned from Beagle 2 could prove vital to their success; its creator Colin Pillinger died without having any idea of its fate or future developments.


Fobos-Soil/Phobos-Grunt was the inaugural mission designed specifically to examine one of Mars’ natural satellites in depth, Phobos. The plan involved sending an in situ lander to investigate Phobos while returning about 100 cubic centimeters of soil from Phobos’ surface for analysis.

Starting off on 8 November 2011, China’s Yinghuo-1 satellite joined in for launch on this mission on 8 November 2011. Reaching an elliptical orbit around Earth, but never firing its subsequent firings as planned, the craft eventually reentered Earth’s atmosphere on 15 January 2012.

Pinpointing the exact location or timing of any debris landings is impossible, although much survives re-entry. Russian scientists say they want to try again, and are developing Phobos-Grunt-2 as an attempt at recovery.


Curiosity rover from NASA is searching for evidence that Mars had the conditions necessary for life billions of years ago. Sumner, from UC Davis, assisted in selecting which parts of Mars to explore and leading a team that analyzes rocks Curiosity encounters. She also operates its instruments including ChemCam that uses laser vaporization of rock samples in order to study their chemical composition as well as Radiation Assessment Detector which measures high energy radiation on Mars which could harm astronauts who land there.

The rover has studied rock layers 3.5 billion years old and discovered that early Mars likely hosted life for many millions or even tens of millions of years, though its climate eventually altered to become uninhabitable in certain spots. Furthermore, radiation studies were performed to better understand what the rover would encounter as it explores Mars’ surface.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Landing on Mars takes great effort. A spacecraft must deploy a huge parachute that slows it enough, then fire retrorockets at exactly the right moment; any glitch in their operation and you could lose everything! Only three space agencies in history have ever managed to successfully land on the Red Planet; none boast an unbroken record.

MRO hosts various scientific instruments, such as the subsurface radar SHARAD. This device helps researchers better understand whether any ice found by Odyssey actually lies under the surface or was just exposed due to climate fluctuations on Mars, as well as providing more insights into gravity field and gravitational pull of Mars. Prof Roberto Seu of Rome University serves on its team.

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