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Mars Launch Timeline
9 months ago
Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Climate Orbiter
Mars Polar Lander/Deep Space 2
Mars Express/Beagle 2
Mars Exploration Rover Spirit
Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Phoenix Mars Lander
Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity)
Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN)
Mars Orbiter Mission
Here, the USSR appears to be rapidly sending out Mars orbiters in an attempt to be ahead of the continuing space race. They have very little success at this point in time however, and none of their orbiters manage to properly make it to Mars. The US does not have any Mars missions during this time period, and yet their first missions will still be more successful than these 5 first Mars exploration attempts.
The reason for these two year gaps between missions is because the easiest and most cost-effective time to send spacecraft is when Mars and the Earth are the closest together. This happens about every two years, so most spacecraft will be sent between February and September in odd numbered years.
The failures of the USSR's Mars 4-7 marked the USSR's last attempts in the 70s and early 80s to send spacecraft to Mars. Viking 1 and Viking 2 were sent by the US to gather images of Mars, with great success. Because they operated for such a long time, US will also not send anymore spacecraft to Mars until the 90s.
After a short gap in launches, the world begins to continue its exploration of Mars. Spacecraft have started to become very modern with some of these still functioning today. Most are solar powered rovers, and a couple of new countries have joined the game with varying success. Japan joined with a spacecraft that is actually more reminiscent of older USSR spacecraft, while the European Space Agency created one that is still functioning today in other missions. The USSR has also become Russia here.
It is at this point that Mars sensationalism has peaked with the quirky personalities and names that have been assigned to these rovers. They have an almost animal-like quality to them despite being robots, so the images that have come out of it are latched onto as these thinking, unfeeling machines are called "cute".
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