From history: The first landing on Mars (Part 1)
A short view back to the history of Mars exploration and the first landing on Mars.
To be honest, I wrote this text a couple of years ago. If I remember correctly, it was probably sometime back in 2013 when I wrote the first words and later added more and more. Now a long time has passed and I found the manuscript of this article on my hard drive. At first, I thought that it would be nice to share it with the public, but there is something that is making a huge block in my brain before doing that. I mean, to publish the article as it was originally written before – without any comments that arose later.
We all know what Russia did to Ukraine. I do not want to express with this article anything that would “glorify” in any way Russia or its predecessor USSR, because that country was created on many criminal grounds. And unfortunately, one of the successor countries after the USSR – the Russian Federation – is falling into the same behavior, as they recently showed to the whole world – not just this year (2022), but even a couple of years ago.
Nevertheless, even in the USSR lived people and scientists, who were focused on pure science and powered by the desire to explore and discover new worlds on other planets of the Solar System. I consider myself to be a fair person, so I think that it may be right to mention the history and achievements of these people exactly as they happened, without any glorification of the political system or the country where these people lived at that time. And where even today are doing the same nonsense, stupid and brutal things as they were 90 years ago (just an estimate).
Anyway, even at that time, many people and scientists were from Ukraine – the country that was part of the USSR even when Ukrainians basically did not want to be part of that Soviet empire. Unfortunately, they (and also many other countries at that time) did not get any chance to say “no” and they were brutally occupied and integrated into the USSR. Scientists and engineers were not given any choice, they were always simply mentioned as “Soviet” scientists or engineers.
So, let’s carefully talk and uncover the history of space technology and the robotic exploration of Mars by the automatic space probes that were designed and made in the USSR even in often hard conditions that the engineers and scientists had in that country.
Research, design, and final manufacture of the automatic interplanetary space probe (as it was called at that time) was not a simple process. This process was affected – during the whole time from the very beginning to the final analysis of achieved data from space – by the politics and by the political targets stated by the Communist party. Just imagine, how you can concentrate on such complicated work when someone is pushing you with some really nonsense and stupid things and targets. Even when that “political” person did not understand anything from physics, planetary science, or space technology and missions planning.
The scientists and engineers even could not say anything. No way to express any personal opinion, simply no chance. Nobody wanted to end up in any gulag – Soviet concentration camps mostly for political prisoners and ordinary people that were “dangerous” just because of their normal thinking and opinions. So, these engineers and scientists were almost always working under high pressure and psychical stress. To achieve really good results or anything that was able to “compete” with the West (or better said, with the rest of the world), was something extraordinary.
And at the very end, the real names of the scientists or engineers were almost always covered by some kind of secret and the names were almost never officially published. The leaders of the country always presented their results as the results of the people of the country. So, no way to publicly express any “thank you” or “we can be proud of this achievement because we have these smart people” – this almost never happened. The reason is simple, the political system of this country was based on fear. There is nothing more needed to say, everyone can simply understand what that means.
The preparation of the interplanetary mission with such a precise target – to hit the planet Mars, was something that nobody could imagine in the first years of astronautics and space exploration beginnings. The computers that we know from the present time simply did not exist, so everything had to be calculated and planned manually on paper with extremely high precision. With no mistake, because the whole interplanetary mission would immediately fail. And nobody wanted to make that – not just because of the fear of what could happen to him or her, but also because of the professional view. If you like your job, you simply know what excitement means. Imagine that you are working on the exploration of Mars – the excitement of achievement of any target on a completely different planet is something that I do not need to describe.
Let’s take a look at the first landing on Mars. The planet that people were observing through telescopes from the Earth and thought almost certainly had some kind of extraterrestrial life – if not present, then in the past. The technological evolution after World War II brought a huge evolution in space missions, so the time has come to explore Mars from the closest distance anyone could have imagined before. It was time to land there and look around there – directly on the surface of the Red planet. The preceding orbital – or let’s say – fly-by missions showed us very interesting information – the surface that looked really like somewhere on the Earth. It was just the question of the time – when some country will try to land there with a space probe. Or, maybe at least hit the surface and shout it out to the entire world on Earth. And this was a very good opportunity to show off in the ongoing space race during the time of the Cold War.
(To be continued in the next article.)
The second part of the series on this topic, you can read here. The second article is focused on the mission and how it continued on Mars.
This is the first part of a series of articles on this topic. You can read the second part here and the third final part here.
 Perminov, V.G. (July 1999). The Difficult Road to Mars – A Brief History of Mars Exploration in the Soviet Union. NASA Headquarters History Division. pp. 34–60. ISBN 0-16-058859-6.
 Mars 3. Wikipedia. [online]. 2.12.2014 [cit. 2014-12-02]. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_3
 Charlene Anderson. Projects: Space Information. Web Archive: The Planetary Society: The First Rover on Mars – The Soviets Did It in 1971. [online]. 2.12.2014 [cit. 2014-12-02]. Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20110605111822/http://www.planetary.org/programs/
The featured image by Freepik.
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