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article image'Beam me to Mars' event celebrates 50 years of Mars exploration

By Karen Graham     Nov 26, 2014 in Science
Man's exploration of Mars started on Nov. 5, 1964 with the launch of the ill-fated Mariner 3 spacecraft. When it died after almost nine hours in flight, Mariner 4 was launched on Nov. 28. It was the first spacecraft to successfully make a flyby of Mars.
Space has always been fraught with danger, from failed rocket launches to the latest mishaps with the Antares Rocket and the Virgin Galactic space plane. It was lucky that NASA just happened to have a backup spacecraft, or otherwise, who knows how long it may have taken to get the first close-up shots of the Red Planet.
The seven-month long journey to Mars ended in a successful mission, but surprisingly, many scientists were shocked at the pictures sent back to Earth. Some scientists thought Mars was home to some kind of life, perhaps primitive. But when they saw the pictures of a desolate, barren and crater-filled world, their hope of finding an alien life-form was dashed.
Since the successful launch of Mariner 4, there have been 14 uncrewed space probes launched at Mars. Most of them were successful, but a number of them crashed on the Martian surface. But the success of the probes that made it safely to the planet's surface have created an excitement in people hoping to see a man walk on the Martian surface one day. This has resulted in a renewed interest in space exploration, including the Mars One project and the U.K.'s STEM project for secondary schools, the MARSBalloon project.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the first successful exploration of Mars, Uwingu, a space-funding company, is sending almost 90,000 names, messages and pictures into space on Friday. They will be beamed toward the Red Planet at the speed of light as part of the company's "Beam me to Mars" project. The public could send a name for $4.95, or a long message or picture for $99. Submissions were open from Aug. 19 until Nov. 5.
A number of celebrities and members of the space community added messages to the "Beam me to Mars" database. Actors Seth Green and George Takei, better known as Mr. Sulu of Star Trek fame, author Homer Hickam ("Rocket Boys," and "October Sky"), Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Bill Nye, the "Science Guy," are just a few of the many people sending messages, names and pictures, according to Uwingu representatives.
The messages will be transmitted to Mars on Friday shortly after 3 p.m. by Universal Space Network, traveling at the rate of one million bits per second. They will arrive on the Red Planet's surface after traveling through deep space a mere 15 minutes later.
More about Uwingu, 50th anniversary, Mars exploration, Mariner 3, Space exploration
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