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  • Writer's pictureFlamsteed Astronomy Society

Mars discovered – a crash course

Doug Ellison

“A crash course” and no mishtake!

In the 20th century only about 32% of space missions to Mars were successful.  The scorecard in the 21st century has been rather better so far with an 85% success rate.

Doug speaks with confidence, passion, and clarity.   His grasp of the details of Mars missions is impressive and he brings many insights to the account of the long list of  projects back to the Viking program.  His explanations of the technical and financial difficulties are most helpful.

His greatest passion is reserved for the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spiritand Opportunity.   What were planned as 90-day missions have now exceeded 5-years.  Compared to a design life of 600-m travel, Spirit has rolled 7572-m and Opportunity 14,621-m.

“Since landing on opposite sides of Mars during January of 2004, Spiritand Opportunity have made important discoveries about historically wet and violent environments on ancient Mars. They also have returned a quarter-million images, driven more than 21 kilometers (13 miles), climbed a mountain, descended into craters, struggled with sand traps and aging hardware, survived dust storms, and relayed more than 36 gigabytes of data via NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter. Both rovers remain operational for new exploration campaigns the team has planned” [NASA].

Doug brings alive the story of these incredible machines and their discoveries.   That there is water on Mars there can be no doubt.  Is there life of any kind?   We still don’t know.  Maybe Mars Science Lab planned for 2011 will tell us.

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Doug Ellison

Doug Ellison

Phoenix Mars Lander [Courtesy NASA/JPL/Caltech]

Mars Exploration Rover [Courtesy NASA/JPL/Caltech]

Opportunity at Victoria Crater [Courtesy NASA/JPL/Caltech]

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