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View Full Version : What is the best Mars mission, and why?



BigJim
2003-Jun-06, 01:28 AM
What is the best Mars mission we have now or that will arrive in December/January, and why do you think so?

Is it:

Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Odyssey
Mars Express
Mars Exploration Rovers
Nozomi

Mars Global Surveyor returns amazing pictures every day (MGS Picture of the Day (http://www.msss.com/)) and the MOLA instrument on board has allowed us to map Mars's topography. Mars odyssey has discovered dark streaks which could be melting water, huge amounts of ice underground, and discovered that radiation at Mars is high, but acceptable. Mars Express carries an orbiter with GPR, which could discover ground water, and high resolution cameras and other instruments. Beagle 2, its lander, is a dedicated exobiology lab that could find life on Mars. Mars Exploration Rovers are two highly advanced rovers equippped to take very high resolution pictures, analyze thousands of rocks from a distance, take microscopic images of rocks, drill holes in them, and then use special spectrometers. Nozomi seems to be the outcast- launched in 1998 and finally due to arrive in Januray , when it will study the Martian upper atmosphere.

Personally I'm torn between Mars Express and MER. MER is probably the better one, in my opinion - I really like the Athena (http://www.athena.cornell.edu/) instrumentation package. On the other hand, the Mars Express orbiter carries some great instruments, namely the radar and the camera, and Beagle 2 has a fair chance of discovering life.

What do you think?

freddo
2003-Jun-06, 01:36 AM
Beagle is cool, but I do like MER very much... The fact that there's two of the ratbags makes it doubly cool! Also, the things that the two robot geologists will be doing boggle the mind... It's about time we get another look at the surface of Mars, from the surface....

All I say is go away Galactic Space Ghoul!

C.

g99
2003-Jun-06, 02:24 AM
rovers all the way! oh i hope they call me up to drive them. (hold fingers!)

Grand Vizier
2003-Jun-06, 05:01 AM
Had to do MGS (someone had to) - because it's already cool. It brought Mars back home after a long long break (apart from Pathfinder - not in the poll, but I know we're looking at stuff that's still working).

Odyssey is kind of a more precise follow-up to MGS (I know, I know - it has quite different and better instruments, buts that's not the point...)

As for on-the-way stuff, how can we tell?

Beagle 2 (separated from ME): I should have a knee-jerk reflex to vote for this, being British, but it was put together as a one-off in a ridiculously short length of time and on a tiny budget. I don't want to say it's cool or the coolest, because I'm biting my fingernails and I feel I'd jinx it. I do think it will thoroughly deserve a global round of applause if it works. (And it certainly looks cool.)

Mars Express: Pretty good. Not only the first Euro-Mars probe, but also the first good try at evolving a Euro-standard deep space bus. This is of some import, Rosetta has commonality and Europe now has a cheap spin-off mission in the form of Venus Express - and who knows what after? For these subdued reasons, Mars Express is definitely cool in a methodical European way.

MER-A, MER-B: What I find cool (and reassuring) about this pair is not just the advanced technology behind the rovers themselves, but the renewed committment to dual-redundancy (twin launches) that NASA/JPL employed in the Good Old Days. The approach worked. In the cases of Mariners 1/2, 3/4 8/9 (6/7 both got through) one of the spacecraft got there, one didn't, and that turned out to be enough. And if both the craft get through - you've got double the data. Win-win. Oh, and those rovers seriously are cool, true (Sorry, I just have a long-term focus :) ).

Nozomi: Tenacity. That spacecraft is battered and limping, but they're going to make sure it gets there. That has to be cool in its way - to steer a rather unglamorous spacecraft, mainly designed to study the Martian atmosphere (not search for life like Beagle, motor around the surface doing geology like the MERs - or even use ground-penetrating radar like Mars Express) right to the end, knowing it's probably going to be upstaged by all the other probes anyway. So let's hear it for Nozomi, too.

They're all cool.

Glom
2003-Jun-06, 12:44 PM
Mars Express, but I'm biased because it's carrying Beagle 2. I really like some of the stuff that Mars Odyssey is returning. By itself, it has pretty much tripled the chances of finding life there.

ToSeek
2003-Jun-06, 02:52 PM
They're all cool.

I voted for the rovers, but I agree with this.

CJSF
2003-Jun-06, 04:11 PM
The one that lands succesfully.

dgruss23
2003-Jun-06, 04:35 PM
The Mars global surveyor has provided remarkable images and lays the groundwork for future studies.

Just think someday we can have a "Mars Hoax" forum where we can debate people that will think we never actually sent probes to Mars.

logicboy
2003-Jun-06, 04:38 PM
I voted for the one that still works and will work in the future.

TheGalaxyTrio
2003-Jun-06, 04:56 PM
The best mission is the one that I'm on.

waynek
2003-Jun-06, 06:02 PM
The best mission is the one that I'm on.

I'll second that. I voted for Mars Express, since I am marginally involved with one of the instruments (ELS). We had a launch watch party, too bad the webcast feed was so lousy. We saw everything after T+10s, but missed the best part. :cry: I've been meaning to download the replay, but it's just not the same.

(PS. You probably meant physically on the mission. I'd agree with that as well, but didn't see it as a choice on the Poll. :o )

Argos
2003-Jun-06, 06:41 PM
I think Mars Express is interesting for the direct measurements on life. The idea of finding microorganisms just bellow the surface really thrills me, although some people think that Mars equator may not be the best place to look at. Also, the "spartan" conception of the project seems very adequate for the present times. The Rovers are my second choice. "Following the water" is a superb task. Surprises may arise.

BigJim
2003-Jun-06, 07:16 PM
You have to love them all, but Odyssey continues to amaze. (http://www.asu.edu/asunews/sci_tech/odyssey_060503.htm)

SollyLama
2003-Jun-06, 08:00 PM
I say Pathfinder.
Why? Because I asked several people with no interest in astronomy your question (adding Pathfinder) and Pathfinder was the only one anyone had heard of.
Public interest does more for NASA budgets than most anything else, and that one mission single handedly did so much for interest in exploration.
Others may learn more, but if the public isn't in it, it won't help NASA get more funding for more missions.

ToSeek
2003-Jun-06, 08:13 PM
I say Pathfinder.
Why? Because I asked several people with no interest in astronomy your question (adding Pathfinder) and Pathfinder was the only one anyone had heard of.
Public interest does more for NASA budgets than most anything else, and that one mission single handedly did so much for interest in exploration.
Others may learn more, but if the public isn't in it, it won't help NASA get more funding for more missions.

Yes, but how many of the general public would have known about it before it was launched? I think the rovers are going to be a big hit for about the same reason as Pathfinder: live (well, almost) images from the surface of Mars!

Psi-less
2003-Jun-06, 11:20 PM
The Rovers, for me, since we don't know what they may come back with. The past missions are still interesting because data is still being obtained from what came back, but the next one is always the most exciting because the possiblities are almost boundless. {Disclaimer: when I say "almost boundless" I'm not picturing bacteria, bits of an extinct civilization, etc. Just new information about our neighbor.}

Psi-less

nebularain
2003-Jun-06, 11:30 PM
You guys made a believer out of me! I just voted the Rovers.

newt
2003-Jun-07, 12:39 AM
MGS: for sheer output & carrying the torch after other unfortunate mission failures. Bags of data and inspirational pics. Reliability.
The Rovers and Beagle2 could be great, but they're not there yet.

ljbrs
2003-Jun-07, 01:22 AM
Very definitely the rovers for me. I cannot for the life of me see what an astronaut can do that a well-equipped rover cannot do better. Maybe astronauts are warm and cuddly and make better news.

Then again, sending astronauts to Mars will bring us the same stupid stuff that certain television programs have been dealing out for the Moon shots.

ljbrs :wink:

Argos
2003-Jun-07, 02:09 AM
Definitely I´m gonna play Led Zeppelin´s The Rover (http://www.lyricsfreak.com/l/led-zeppelin/16058.htm) 8)

beskeptical
2003-Jun-07, 08:42 AM
Whichever mission is most likely to find evidence for life. I want it to be found so I can enjoy the reactions it will cause around the world. Maybe folks will start seeing themselves as humans rather than [put any race or religion you want here]. Well, I can dream can't I?

darkhunter
2003-Jun-07, 10:37 AM
The first one with a live, human crew... :D

David Hall
2003-Jun-08, 01:00 PM
I'd say the best mission is the one that gets there safe and sound and starts sending back data and images. If they all make it, then they're all the best. :-D

But for my choice, I'll have to root for Nozomi (http://www.isas.ac.jp/e/enterp/missions/nozomi/cont.html). I know I'm biased here, but for a country without a strong track record of space missions to send up such an ambitious mission really impresses me. I really hope it achieves it's objectives. I've always been partial to the underdog anyway. :-)

Glom
2003-Jun-08, 01:27 PM
Nobody votes fore Odyssey. Scum. :x

BigJim
2003-Jun-08, 02:57 PM
I would, but I think MER is better- got to love the rovers. But I did give that link to the article that supports Mars Odyssey (a mission without an acronym? :o )

Grand Vizier
2003-Jun-08, 04:52 PM
I would, but I think MER is better- got to love the rovers. But I did give that link to the article that supports Mars Odyssey (a mission without an acronym? :o )

Perhaps we ought to be voting on the names too. I'm sorry, but I consider 'Spirit' and 'Opportunity' to be among the worst names ever bestowed on spacecraft. (If only the first one had been 'Spirit of *' as in 'Spirit of St Louis', it might have worked.)

I'm going to continue to refer to them as MER-A or MER-B (or -1 and -2 after launch).

nebularain
2003-Jun-09, 12:53 AM
Nobody votes fore Odyssey. Scum. :x

So why didn't you? :lol:

Glom
2003-Jun-09, 12:54 AM
I said that I was obliged by loyalty to vote for MER.

nebularain
2003-Jun-09, 12:57 AM
Perhaps we ought to be voting on the names too. I'm sorry, but I consider 'Spirit' and 'Opportunity' to be among the worst names ever bestowed on spacecraft. (If only the first one had been 'Spirit of *' as in 'Spirit of St Louis', it might have worked.)


I think it was the essay that won them over:

"I used to live in an orphanage. It was dark and cold and lonely. At night, I looked up at the sparkly sky and felt better. I dreamed I could fly there. In America, I can make all my dreams come true. Thank you for the 'Spirit' and the 'Opportunity.'"

This fits with the whole purpose of having children naming the rovers in the first place - getting them excited about space.

This is my guess, anyway.

BigJim
2003-Jun-09, 01:59 AM
Perhaps we ought to be voting on the names too. I'm sorry, but I consider 'Spirit' and 'Opportunity' to be among the worst names ever bestowed on spacecraft. (If only the first one had been 'Spirit of *' as in 'Spirit of St Louis', it might have worked.)

Grand Vizier, I totally agree with you. Spirit and Opportunity? Come on! I don't care who the heck the girl is. I cannot think of an American mission with a worse name. I was going to say exactly the same thing - I will keep referring to them as MER-A and MER-B. Spirit and Oppurtunity. Sigh. Ridiculous. Sojourner was a dignified name. Endeavour was named after the great ships of exploration of the past. And then...... "Spirit" and "Oppotunity"? Bleh. Maybe we could have named them after famous aircraft, or something, but those two names are the LAST ones I would pick.



I said that I was obliged by loyalty to vote for MER.

Mars Express, but I'm biased because it's carrying Beagle 2.

Don't you mean obliged to vote for Mars Express? :wink:

Iain Lambert
2003-Jun-09, 09:51 AM
Beagle 2 is definitely my favorite. But then I'm (a) British and (b) a Blur fan, so I would say that.

Grand Vizier
2003-Jun-09, 10:16 AM
Grand Vizier, I totally agree with you. Spirit and Opportunity? Come on! I don't care who the heck the girl is. I cannot think of an American mission with a worse name. I was going to say exactly the same thing - I will keep referring to them as MER-A and MER-B. Spirit and Oppurtunity. Sigh. Ridiculous. Sojourner was a dignified name. Endeavour was named after the great ships of exploration of the past. And then...... "Spirit" and "Oppotunity"? Bleh. Maybe we could have named them after famous aircraft, or something, but those two names are the LAST ones I would pick.

Yeah, Sojourner was a great name. Pathfinder was fine too. But, y'know, I think there's too much of this unique naming (ESA is just as guilty of this). I was happier when the spacecraft were named in numeric series like the Mariners or Pioneers (or Mercury/Gemini/Apollo!), because 1) it emphasised the fact that there was an ongoing programme 2) you knew that all these craft had some sensible engineering commonality and they weren't hand-crafting a new spacecraft every time a launch window came up. (Which is precisely the wheel that ESA has re-invented with the ...Express series). But I guess I'm just an old space fogey. :)

Glom
2003-Jun-09, 11:53 AM
Don't you mean obliged to vote for Mars Express? :wink:

That's also a possibility. :oops:

ToSeek
2003-Jun-09, 05:18 PM
What Mars Odyssey is accomplishing. (http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=489&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0)

BigJim
2003-Jun-09, 08:19 PM
I was talking with someone today, and we were discussing the MER missions' rather, er, unsatisfactory names. We came up with some pretty cool alternatives. How about "Romulus" and "Remus"? Now THOSE would have been pretty cool names.

Grand Vizier
2003-Jun-09, 10:45 PM
I was talking with someone today, and we were discussing the MER missions' rather, er, unsatisfactory names. We came up with some pretty cool alternatives. How about "Romulus" and "Remus"? Now THOSE would have been pretty cool names.

I've gotta say that's pretty cool, though few might understand the essential reference. It could be seen as hubris, though - after all, the rovers are actually the offspring of Earth.

Maybe an inoffensive programme name would be my favourite ('Mariner' is actually a rather bland name - it acquires resonance from the success of the Mariners themselves. And as for 'Surveyor', well... But it worked). Since we mentioned it earlier, I would be OK with Sojourner 2 and 3. (So there's no engineering commonality with Sojourner 1 - but it sort of says 'hey, Mars, we're here to stay').

Argos
2003-Jun-10, 02:16 PM
I was talking with someone today, and we were discussing the MER missions' rather, er, unsatisfactory names. We came up with some pretty cool alternatives. How about "Romulus" and "Remus"? Now THOSE would have been pretty cool names.

Twins? Castor and Pollux.

Grand Vizier
2003-Jun-10, 02:57 PM
I was talking with someone today, and we were discussing the MER missions' rather, er, unsatisfactory names. We came up with some pretty cool alternatives. How about "Romulus" and "Remus"? Now THOSE would have been pretty cool names.

Twins? Castor and Pollux.

Assuming that NASA cares (they might), 'Pollux' might raise a lot of cheap laughs on this side of the Atlantic... :roll: BigJim's idea was quite smart, though, since Romulus and Remus were traditionally the sons of Mars. Castor and Pollux were Zeus's boys.

pmcolt
2003-Jun-10, 02:58 PM
MER gets my vote. Not that the other missions don't do real, important work, but there's just something to be said for two rovers on the ground, moving around and physically taking samples. But I'd've given them a name other than Spirit and Opportunity. Like, say, 'Bugs' and 'Tweety'. 'Sour Cream' and 'Onion'. 'Lucy' and 'Ethel'. I mean, our record with Mars isn't all that great, and you almost have to expect something to go wrong with a rover named Lucy...

Argos
2003-Jun-10, 03:11 PM
BigJim's idea was quite smart, though, since Romulus and Remus were traditionally the sons of Mars. Castor and Pollux were Zeus's boys.

oh, yeah. You´re right. Now I realize that the names are perfect.



Assuming that NASA cares (they might), 'Pollux' might raise a lot of cheap laughs on this side of the Atlantic... :roll:


I see. Forget about Pollux. But how about Rolls & Royce? :wink:

Grand Vizier
2003-Jun-10, 03:51 PM
BigJim's idea was quite smart, though, since Romulus and Remus were traditionally the sons of Mars. Castor and Pollux were Zeus's boys.

oh, yeah. You´re right. Now I realize that the names are perfect.



Assuming that NASA cares (they might), 'Pollux' might raise a lot of cheap laughs on this side of the Atlantic... :roll:


I see. Forget about Pollux. But how about Rolls & Royce? :wink:

I think appealing to popular taste should mean something along the lines of Cagney and Lacey, Starsky and Hutch, Laverne and Shirley, Bob and Bing (hey - I like that one - The Road to Olympus Mons), Tom and Jerry, Ren and Stimpy, Itchy and Scratchy... Uh-oh, better stop there.

BigJim
2003-Jun-11, 02:42 AM
Well, Spirit/MER-A is on its way! The Delta 2 functioned perfectly. Now we settle down and wait.