Ahh, the mission to Mars. Doesn’t it just roll off the tongue? But this romanticized version that we have in our heads of successful missions is not at all the case of our history with the red temptress. She’s out there, here mere existence taunting us, pushing our curiosity buttons. What do we have to show for 50+ years if trying to land her? Not as much as you’d expect when you look at the amount of attempts that have been made to extract information. Two out of every three missions to mars have failed before completing their missions! To me that is an astonishing number, but when you are on the bleeding edge of technology, stuff just isn’t going to go as planned. So my hat is off to all those crazy scientists that pushed past the doubt and the criticism.
The scientists believed that they could make it work, and sometimes it did, but the earlier missions seemed to be a trial by fire that allowed us see what can and can’t work. The Soviets, our space competition, set us humans off on the road to Mars with their first attempts at a fly-by in the early 1960s. They were, of course, a series of failures that usually ended up as explosions in the sky, but hey, baby steps right? Baby steps indeed, failure after failure happened for the Soviets and I can only imagine the pressure building as each mission failed in sequence.
All this effort wasn’t in vain though, they were learning with every failure and by the end of the 60’s the Soviets had enough under their belt to draw from that progress was inevitable, but the USA was also making head way and this competition fueled the technology fire that is in part responsible for the devices we use today.