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Backgrounder: NASA's past Mars exploration missions

(Xinhua)

14:40, August 06, 2012

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is set to touch down in the Gale Crater area of Mars early Monday. The mission will study whether the Red Planet has evidence of past and present habitable environments. The following is a brief introduction to NASA's past Mars missions:

Mariner 3: launched on Nov. 5, 1964. However, soon after its launch, the shroud encasing the spacecraft atop its rocket failed to open properly and the mission was unsuccessful.

Mariner 4: launched on Nov. 18, 1964. It made its first successful Mars flyby in July 1965 and returned 21 photos.

Mariner 6: launched on Feb. 24, 1969. It flew past Mars in July 1969 and returned 75 photos.

Mariner 7: launched on March 27, 1969. It flew past Mars in August 1969 and returned 126 photos.

Mariner 8: failed during launch on May 8, 1971.

Mariner 9: launched on May 30, 1971 and became the first artificial satellite of Mars when it arrived at and went into orbit in November 1971. It operated till October 1972 and returned 7,329 photos.
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