Each Group Is Named After A Space Mission
Beagle - The Beagle was a British spacecraft that was part of the European Space Agency's Mars Express Mission launched in, and expected to land on Mars in 2003. Its objective was to search for past or present signs of life on Mars, and characterize the geology, mineralogy, geochemistry, and oxidation state of its landing site.The Beagle spacecraft lost all contact shortly after detaching from the Mars Express and the success of its landing is not known.
Curiosity – Curiosity, or Mars Science Laboratory, was a car sized, 1-ton rover on a NASA mission to assess whether Mars ever had an environment that was habitable. In order to do this, the rover will analyze soil and rock samples from the surface of the planet and study the climate and geology of the planet with a 6.9 ft long arm that can dig into the rock to take samples. Curiosity was launched in November 2011, and arrived on the red planet early August 2012.
Dawn – Dawn was a NASA space probe launched in September 2007. Its objective was to explore and study the two largest objects of the asteroid belt, Ceres (an icy and cold protoplanet) and Vesta (a rocky protoplanet). This exploration was designed to answer questions about the formation of the solar system.
Express – Mars Express was a mission by the European Space Agency conducted to explore Mars. It has two parts, the Mars Express Orbiter, to take high-resolution imaging and mineralogical mapping of the surface, radar sounding of the subsurface structure, determination of the atmospheric circulation and composition, and study the interaction of the atmosphere with the interplanetary medium (dust, cosmic rays, and hot plasma), and the Beagle 2, a lander to perform exobiology and geochemistry research.
Galileo – Galileo was an orbiter and entry probe launched in October 1989 to study Jupiter and its moons, as well as several other celestial bodies. The probe was launched into Jupiter to measure its atmosphere. It also discovered the first asteroid moon, Dactyl, which orbits around 243 Ida, an asteroid in the asteroid belt.
Halley – Halley’s Comet is visible from Earth every 75-76 years. It is a short-period comet, meaning it has an orbital period of less than 200 years, and visible to the naked eye. Halley’s Comet was the first comet to be observed in detail, and provided data on the structure of a comet nucleus as well as the mechanism of coma and tail formation.
Hubble – Hubble Space Telescope was carried to orbit in 1990, where it remains today. It is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts. Hubble has provided sharp images with little background light, as it orbits outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Hubble has allowed breakthroughs such as determining the rate of expansion of the universe.
Inspiration – Inspiration Mars Foundation aims to launch a two person manned mission to flyby Mars in January 2018. Inspiration plans to revitalize interest in science, and launches in 2018 when the planets will align, offering a unique, quick orbit to Mars.
Kosmos – Kosmos is the name of the group of satellites operated by Russia. Over 2000 satellites have been launched, including optical reconnaissance, communications, early warning missile defense, and nuclear-powered radar reconnaissance satellites.
Mariner – Mariner was a NASA program from 1962-1973 to study Mars, Venus, and Mercury. There were ten vehicles; seven successful and three lost. The program consisted of many firsts, including the first planetary flyby, pictures from another planet, planetary orbiter, and gravity assist maneuver.
Maven – Maven, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN: Planned to be launched on November 18, 2013 to study its atmosphere. Its goal is to determine what caused the Martian atmosphere and water to be lost, creating an inhospitable climate for life.
Observer – Mars Observer was launched September 1992 to study the Martian surface, atmosphere, climate, and magnetic field. Unfortunately, the spacecraft was lost three days prior to orbital insertion.
Odyssey – 2001 Mars Odyssey was launched to use spectrometers and electronic imagers to detect evidence of past or present water and volcanic activity on Mars. Odyssey holds the record for longest-surviving continually active spacecraft in orbit.
Opportunity – Opportunity was launched July 2003 and landed on Mars’ Meridiani Planum to study the rocks for past water activity, and search for clues for environmental conditions that existed when water was present. From the sampling Opportunity took, NASA scientists were able to make hypotheses about the presence of hematite and past presence of water on the surface of Mars. Opportunity has continued to run for over 9 years past its planned mission.
Pathfinder – Mars Pathfinder was launched December 1996 to analyze the Martian atmosphere, climate, geology, and composition of its rocks and soil. Pathfinder also provided technology tests, such as an airbag-mediated touchdown, to be used on future missions.
Phobos – Phobos is the largest moon of Mars. It has a synchronous orbit, meaning it moves around Mars faster than Mars rotates itself. It also has a short orbital period because it is so close to Mars, and eventually will break up into a planetary ring.
Phoenix – The Phoenix lander launched August 2007 under the Mars Scout Program. Its mission was to search for environments suitable for microbial life on Mars, and research the history of possible water on the planet. It was NASA’s first successful landing in a polar region on Mars.
Rosetta – Rosetta was launched in 2004 and is a European Space Agency space probe and orbiter to study the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet. In 2014 the lander will attempt to land and perform detailed investigations on the comet’s surface in hope to form a better idea of now the solar system looked before planets were formed.
Spirit – Spirit is Opportunity’s twin. They were sent to Mars to complete the same mission on opposite sides of the planet. It was targeted to a site that appeared to have been affected by liquid water in the past. It deployed the airbag-protected landing device.
Viking – The Viking program, launched in 1976, comprised of a pair of space probes composed of an orbiter and lander, sent to Mars to study the surface of the planet. The orbiters served as communication relays for the landers. The Viking program formed most of the knowledge about Mars that we have today.
Zond – Zond was a Soviet probe intended to gather information about nearby planets. There were two series in this mission; the first mission intended to explore Venus and Mars, and after two failures only was able to photograph the far side of the moon. The second mission provided test flights for the Soviet Union during the moon race, but was never able to make a manned spaceflight.