Contact was briefly established last week with the wayward Phobos-Grunt probe, still hobbling through low Earth-orbit since failing to fire its thrusters to escape orbit and send it on its way to Mars on November 9th.
Unfortunately, this setback is just the latest in a string of disasters in Earth’s decades old struggle for the Red Planet. With partial failures and losses of entire missions through the years, we have learned that the conquest of the Martian system is one fraught with danger and peril.
Despite the well-known challenges of interplanetary travel, rumors of a supposed Mars Curse remain persistent. Wading through the conspiracy theories and outlandish claims of faked missions and mind-control experiments, I wanted to know if there really was a correlation between disaster and attempts for Mars.
In order to see if people’s perceptions and mission outcomes really were in conjunction, I tapped the resources of RussianSpaceWeb.com to see just how many missions met with disaster on the way to or just after arriving at the Martian system.
Out of a total of 35 missions to Mars, 14 missions or 40% of all attempts to reach Mars have succeeded. We also see that 21 missions or 60% of all attempts to reach Mars met with some type of mission failure along the way.
While journeying to Mars is an obviously perilous journey, the success rates of missions and the beyond life-expectancy performance of the different rovers (Opportunity, Spirit) throughout the last decade fail to show any proof of a mysterious force preventing Humans from reaching our once Earth-like neighbor.
And so, the quest for Mars will continue to drive us past our fears and skepticism and few conceivable setbacks will change people’s hearts and minds. For it is in favor of the chance that we might yet be able to make a crucial home away from home that truly beckons to Humanity.
If we as a species are to survive even the most catastrophic of events (think Earth-seeking asteroids), then colonizing Mars and other places in the solar system becomes more than just the next logical step for space exploration but indeed one that ensures our very existence as a species.