NASA News 2
Now to get back to that informational talk NASA personnel gave at the Orlando Science Center. I believe the next subject was the Kepler telescope.
The purpose of the Kepler telescope is to examine one tiny section of this galaxy looking for planets. That's all. And it does a wonderful job of it, including some planets that are more or less earth-like AND in that star's Goldilocks Zone. Personally, I was surprised to learn that the Kepler telescope does not orbit Earth, but is actually located quite a distance from us. I was dismayed to hear that a short time ago, the second of its 4 stabilizers went out. It had been working 'okay' with only 3, but with 2, it is now rotating, unable to keep track of the section of the galaxy it's supposed to examine. Since it is so far away, chances are it will not be repaired. And that is a bummer.
Then we turned to Mars. I don't remember a specific number being mentioned, but there have been a lot of attempts to land a probe on Mars, by many different countries. The US is the only one who has managed to have any of their Martian probes still function after landing.
Apparently, Mars is very difficult to land on. It has enough gravity to pull things down really fast, but not enough air for wings or parachutes to do much good. If I remember correctly, the density of Martian air at the surface is only 17% of Earth's atmosphere density at sea level. It's why we've gotten so creative with our landing methods, from bouncey balls to floating cranes.
Discovery is our most recent probe sent to Mars, and it's about the size of a van. Can you imagine tooling around Mars in an intelligent van? It has to have some ability to make its own decisions, because calling for help, waiting for humans to figure out the answer and send it back takes too long.
Intelligent robots. The future is here. And we sent it to Mars.