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JPL and the Space Age: The Changing Face of Mars (NASA Documentary)

This image of Mariner 4 superimposed on an image of Mars was used to advertise the Mariner 4 mission. Credit: NASA

Other than Earth, no planet in the solar system has been so thoroughly or long examined as MarsMars is the second smallest planet in our solar system and the fourth planet from the sun. It is a dusty, cold, desert world with a very thin atmosphere. Iron oxide is prevalent in Mars' surface resulting in its reddish color and its nickname "The Red Planet." Mars' name comes from the Roman god of war.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Mars. For more than two decades now NASAEstablished in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Its vision is "To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity." Its core values are "safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence, and inclusion." NASA conducts research, develops technology and launches missions to explore and study Earth, the solar system, and the universe beyond. It also works to advance the state of knowledge in a wide range of scientific fields, including Earth and space science, planetary science, astrophysics, and heliophysics, and it collaborates with private companies and international partners to achieve its goals.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has continuously explored the Red Planet with an array of orbiters, landers, and rovers.

What laid the groundwork for this unparalleled record of exploration? This 90-minute documentary describes the challenges of JPLThe Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center that was established in 1936. It is owned by NASA and managed by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The laboratory's primary function is the construction and operation of planetary robotic spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA's Deep Space Network. JPL implements programs in planetary exploration, Earth science, space-based astronomy and technology development, while applying its capabilities to technical and scientific problems of national significance.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>JPL’s first attempts to send spacecraft to the Red Planet.

For much of human history, Mars was no more than a tiny reddish dot in the sky. But in 1965 the first spacecraft ever to visit Mars, JPL’s Mariner 4, began to change our understanding of the planet with its grainy black-and-white images of Mars. The data from Mariner 4 and those that followed were full of confusing data for the scientists to understand.

The Changing Face of Mars, reveals through archival footage and interviews with key scientists and engineers, JPL’s first roles in exploring the Red Planet, from Mariner 4, through the 1976 arrival of the Viking orbiters and landers.

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Mariner 4 was a NASA spacecraft that was launched on November 28, 1964, as part of the Mariner program. Its mission was to fly by and study Mars, making it the first spacecraft to successfully fly by another planet. Mariner 4’s flyby of Mars took place on July 15, 1965, and it returned the first close-up images of the Martian surface, showing a barren, heavily cratered terrain with no signs of canals or other features that had been previously proposed as evidence of Martian civilization. Mariner 4 also provided valuable data on the Martian atmosphere and magnetic field. The spacecraft was also sent to study the interplanetary medium, and to measure the solar wind, magnetic field, and cosmic dust in the vicinity of Mars.

JPL and the Space Age Video Series

Source: SciTechDaily