For over 2000 Mars-days* the Curiosity Rover has been strolling across the landscape of Mars. The Mission is known as the Mars Science Laboratory and the star is Curiousity. Google defines intelligence as, “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.” Under that definition, Curiosity and its predessors certainly qualify as intelligent life on another planet.
[*Mars-day or sols = 24 hours + 37 minutes of Earth time]
Mars = Soviet Humiliation
To date, humans have attempted to send 55¹ missions to Mars and over half of them have failed. Soviet Russia tried to launch 20 missions and none of them were a complete success. Two misssion were mostly successful, and three of them were mostly failures. The other 15 missions were complete failures.
Russia seemed to give up sending missions to Mars after 1988. Since the fall of Communism, Russia has attempted two probes, both failed. Russia’s only successful probe to the Red planet is a joint orbiter mission with the European Space Agency (ESA) that is still in operation.
In comparison to Russia’s single success out of 23 attempts, India has sent one mission to Mars and the orbiter is now on an extended mission.
[¹NOTE: An orbiter/lander mission is counted as two separate missions.]
What We Know About Mars, Thank NASA/JPL
NASA and its partners like the Joint Propulsion Lab (JPL) have been responsible for putting intelligent life on Mars. Five out of the current eight operational missions are NASA/JPL missions. The Mars Odyssey mission was launched 17 years ago (April 2001) and is expected to be operational until 2025.
The United States is the only country to successfully have a rover on Mars and it has a perfect record in four attempts (Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity.) The Opportunity rover was launched in 2003 and is still operational.
Curiouser and Couriouser
The Couriosity rover was on a two-year mission after its successful 2012 landing. It is now on an extended mission without an end date. It continues to explore and offer new insights; however, it is a mission that has almost been too successful. As it continues to wander around Gale crater, one has to wonder how much more can our rover-on-the-ground learn in one location?
As it rolls beyond 2000 sols will its constant poking, prodding, and picture-taking result in more knowledge, or bias our understanding based on the massive data from one region? Perhaps we will find out in 2020. Three new rovers are scheduled for launch that year. The United States will send Mars 2020, ESA will send ExoMars 2020, and the yet to be named 2020 Chinese Mars Mission will also be sent.