Despite all hostilities, our Red Planet is still the most “friendly” planet in our solar system after Earth, and that is why Space Agencies world wide are investing enormous amounts of money in exploration projects to Mars. Various spacecrafts have already visited the Red Planet and more sofisticated ones are going to come.
The first spacecraft to visit Mars was Mariner 4 (USA: flyby) in 1965. Several others followed including Mars 2 (USSR), the first spacecraft to land (or crash) on Mars and the two Viking landers (USA) in 1976. After a 20 years long break the Mars Pathfinder (USA) landed successfully on Mars on 1997 July 4, followed by the Global Surveyor (USA, November 1997) and Nozomi (Japan – 4th July, 1998). Both orbiters are still in orbit, taking important pictures from Mars.
All these missions and the next ones have one thing in common: their aim is to explore Mars and discover its secrets and possible use for mankind. One of these secrets maybe the probable existence of ancient primitive life form. The first spacecrafts to perform experiments to determine the existence of life on Mars were the Viking landers. The results of the Viking’s experiments were somewhat ambiguous but most scientists now believe that they show no evidence for life on Mars. There is still some controversy, because by these missions only two tiny samples were measured and not from the most favorable locations. Thus some scientists still remain optimistic and new Mars missions, such as the Pathfinder, are going to make more exact experiments.website