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Background Information

Mars has long been fascinating scientists the world over even before it was first described by Aristotle in 356 BC. Later, in 1610, a man named Galileo Galilee observed its gibbous phase through his newly invented telescope. Researchers now know enough about Mars to believe that it may hold the key to answering questions about the history of the Earth. It is still unclear as to whether or not any microscopic life form existed on Mars.

Over the next decade NASA will launch a series of spacecraft to orbit Mars and land on its surface. The Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor missions will be followed by the launchings of two spacecraft every two years until 2005. These missions will focus on studying the conditions for the emergence of life on Mars, particularly the history of climate and water. Starting in 2005, missions will focus on collecting rocks from three regions on Mars and it is expected that the first samples will be returned to Earth during the same year. These robotic explorations will pave the way for a human expedition sometime around 2020.




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