Getting to Mars is not easy. This fabulous HD video is a short version of the IMAX documentary “Roving Mars” from 2006. It’s really cool seeing all the stages of the rocket drop off. Turns out you can coast a large portion of the way!
To get to Mars, Spirit and Opportunity, the two Mars Exploration Rovers launched this past June and July, will have to fly through about 483 million kilometers (300 million miles) of deep space and target a very precise spot to land. Adjustments to their flight paths can be made along the way, but a small trajectory error can result in a big detour and or even missing the planet completely.
The space environment isn’t friendly. Hazards range from what engineers call “single event upsets,” as when a stray particle of energy passes through a chip in the spacecraft’s computer causing a glitch and possibly corrupting data, to massive solar flares, such as the ones that occurred this fall, that can damage or even destroy spacecraft electronics.