July 4th 1997 NASA did something spectacular: demonstrated a bunch of new technologies and delivered a space craft to the surface of another planet. Mars Pathfinder landed on Mars. Not long after, NASA started working on more probes to be sent to Mars, to do some research on the the climate and the polar ice packs. It’s pretty important research given that this seems to be where ALL the water on Mars was. Water is a pretty important item if we ever want to have a return mission or a manned mission. Not to mention water drives a lot of geological and planetary evolution. And there’s that "life" thing too.
Some bad things happened (most notably, 2 Mars Probes crashed). Mission delays ensued, launch windows were missed, and eventually the project was "mothballed". It didn’t look like this mission to the polar ice was ever going to get a chance.
Here we are more than a decade after Mars Pathfinder’s success, and Up From The Ashes , The Phoenix rises! Next month, it will start on it’s way to the red planet. This craft is, in terms of software evolution, Mars Pathfinder’s sibling, sort-of one of the Mars Exploration Rovers’ grandparents. I hope you’ll join me in wishing it "Bon Voyage"!