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Langley's Involvement in Mars Missions
 
NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., has played a role in several Mars missions, going back to 1968, when NASA chose the center to lead humankind's very first journey to land a rover on the red planet with two spacecraft called Viking 1 and Viking 2.

The spacecraft were launched in August and September of 1975, and arrived at Mars in July and September of 1976.

Since then, Langley has been involved in the following Mars missions:

Mars Pathfinder -- Sojourner rover
Launched:Dec. 4, 1996
Landed:July 4, 1997
Mission:Engineering demonstration; first rover to land on Mars.
Status:Final transmission Sept. 27, 1997.
Langley's Role:Entry, descent and landing.


2001 Mars Odyssey -- orbiter
Launched:April 7, 2001
Orbital Insertion:Oct. 24, 2001
Mission:Map the amount and distribution of chemical elements and minerals that make of the Mars surface.
Status:Mission ongoing
Langley's Role:Guiding the spacecraft into orbit through a process called aerobraking, which uses the atmosphere to slow down.


Mars Exploration Rover
Launched:June 10 and July 7, 2003
Landed:Jan. 3 and Jan. 24, 2004
Mission:Find answers about the history of water on Mars.
Status:Spirit went silent March 22, 2010. Opportunity continues to operate.
Langley's Role:Entry, descent and landing; aeroshell development; parachute design.


Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter
Launched:Aug. 12, 2005
Orbital Insertion:March 2006
Mission:Search for evidence of water on Mars.
Status:Mission ongoing
Langley's Role:Guiding the spacecraft into orbit through a process called aerobraking, which uses the atmosphere to slow down.


Phoenix Mars Lander -- Spirit and Opportunity rovers
Launched:Aug. 4, 2007
Landed:May 25, 2008
Mission:Uncover clues to the geologic history and biological potential of the Martian arctic.
Status:Operations declared ended May 24, 2010, after repeated attempts to communicate with the lander failed.
Langley's Role:Entry, descent and landing.



First Airplane to Fly on Mars

NASA Langley also developed an airplane that would fly above the Mars surface to study the planet's magnetic properties; the composition, chemistry and dynamics of the atmosphere; and search for near-surface water.

Called ARES -- Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey of Mars -- the autonomously powered airplane would have been the first aircraft to fly on another planet.

An ARES half-scale model completed a successful test flight 100,000 feet above the Oregon coast in 2002. Attached to a high-altitude balloon, the prototype Mars airplane separated from the balloon, unfolded, and completed a two-hour, pre-programmed flight path. After being released over the Pacific Ocean and flying for more than 50 miles (80 kilometers), a pilot remotely guided the 45-pound (20.4-kilogram), 10-foot (three-meter) wingspan aircraft to a safe landing area during the last five minutes of flight.

ARES was one of four finalists for the first Mars Scout Mission in 2003.

For more about ARES go to marsairplane.larc.nasa.gov.