JPL and the Space Age: The Changing Face of Mars

Published 2022-03-31
Other than Earth, no planet in our solar system has been so thoroughly or long examined as Mars. For decades, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has continuously explored the Red Planet with an array of orbiters, landers, and rovers.

What laid the groundwork for this unparallel record of exploration? This 90-minute documentary describes the challenges of JPL’s first attempts to send spacecraft to the Red Planet.

For much of human history, Mars was no more than a tiny reddish dot in the sky. But in 1965, the first spacecraft ever to visit Mars, JPL’s Mariner 4, began to change our understanding of the planet with its grainy black and white images. The data from Mariner 4, and from missions that followed, were full of confusing data for scientists to understand.

The Changing Face of Mars reveals, through archival footage and interviews with key scientists and engineers, JPL's first roles in exploring the Red Planet, from Mariner 4, through the 1976 arrival of the Viking orbiters and landers.

All Comments (21)
  • @JohnIwaszko
    Not only the best, the most accurate I have ever seen or read, telling the story accurately and without hype or bias.
  • @texleeger8973
    I was a NASA-freak kid. I remember when Navy and USAF missiles couldn't get off the ground. But then it became more successful and it was A-OK all the way. Mercury astronauts were superheroes. All liftoffs were TV adventures. And JPL was residence of the gods. It was a time for pride and glory and all the excitement a kid could ever want. It was my time and the memories are sweet.
  • @FredPlanatia
    I really appreciated the part of this report devoted to George Pimentel - when I was at Berkeley he was still active though he'd mellowed after having been diagnosed with cancer. He loved science and yet encouraged junior scientists to remember to live life and balance that against the intense fever that can accompany a devoted career in science. He also knew that it was essential the public be included in the human venture of science, to understand why it brings excitement to help push back against the vast veil of ignorance in human's understanding of the cosmos. I am grateful to have known such a man.
  • That was an excellent documentary. It not only brought back memories and answered old questions, but it put a human face on one of the great scientific quests of our times.
  • I must be a serious geek but at 57:07 Ray Bradbury reading that poem really hit the heart strings. I wish we, as a society, still felt the same way about space exploration as past generations did.
  • @TropicalCoder
    I just saw my whole life pass before my eyes. I witnessed every event on the road to mars, beginning when I was a young man. Before that in my youth I read Bradbury, and in my childhood, Edgar Rice burroughs, and dreamed of mars. This wonderful documentary put that all in perspective for me. Now I continue to follow the adventures of Curiosity and Perseverance, but I am jaded. This planet is a barren desert. After all that effort, there is nothing there for us.
  • @cliffb1
    I have really enjoyed each of the videos that JPL have produced about their endeavours in space exploration. Behind the scenes footage, the great scientists and engineers, footage of some of the spacecraft involved, what a treat! i hope the team that makes these videos continue to make many more. After all, the missions and stories behind them must be almost as infinite as space itself. Well done everyone at JPL!
  • I was just starting Junior HS when Mariner 4 project was underway. I never dreamed that I would one day work on the manned space program. None of my work would have been possible without the dedicated efforts of those pioneers. Now retired, I hope that, in some small way, my work will help to stir the imagination of some young STEM professional to push the program across the threshold of manned planetary exploration.
  • Glad and proud to have served our country as part of the Appollo Moon Program and now I am greatful to see such a good documentary on our Mars ventures. This was well done and very fasinating to watch ! Thanks NASA/JPL !! Special thanks to all the men and women involved in this Mars Mission! Now we are planning to return to the moon and later to Mars with the new "Artimus" Program so, a special shout-out to all those involved ! 😊 God Bless ! 😊 Grandpa Ron
  • @Gwaithmir
    I still remember getting up at 2:00 a.m. and turning on the TV to see the first pictures from Mars. I was 17 years old at the time. The first couple of pictures had to be extrapolated from the data stream by an artist.
  • @MaryAnnNytowl
    Oh, what memories! I was little, but these missions were what first made me fall in love with science! ❤❤
  • @WhitefoxSpace
    Man Ray Bradbury, what a legend. People don't speak about him often enough I I think. That poem might be the most beautiful piece of space writing I've ever heard. It starts at 58:36 ish
  • @billfoster6479
    This is the best documentary I've seen in a long time, I was captivated from start to finish. Having been a very young boy when all this was happening, I had no real concept of just how hard it was. Thank you JPL and thank you NASA.
  • Most definitely enjoyed the detail description of space exploration provided for the public viewing
  • @mashmash7877
    50 to 60 years later mars is still a mystery with much unanswered questions
  • @lunatom3
    Lovely and wonderful! Brings back my childhood blood-driven drive to become an engineer, aspiring astronaut, etc++. Please share more of this stuff!
  • @MarkHopewell
    I wish JPL would produce far more of these documentary presentations. The output from main networks, e.g. CBS, BBC, ABC and such like is very depressing. Far too little of it in far too little detail far too infrequently. Here in the UK, the BBC is pretty well dedicated to cookery programmes and wishy-washy super safe programming. There are less and less opportunities to view deeper science programming. They even tried to cancel the Sky at Night programme a few years back and that was only on for 30 minutes once per month! So, I personally plea to JPL and others to release your own archives and put on the wider public record your work. The deeper the detail the better - from milling out machined spacecraft components to RF theory & design to image processing - the lot! A no holds barred Uber fest of scientific endukgence we can finally get our teeth into. Surely there must be a way to do this as you're the ones with the engineers, materials and researchers right there in the heart of your organisation.
  • @tanzanos
    This is how documentaries should be. No sensetionalism, no political correctness; just science. A big thank you.🖖👍
  • @SubvertTheState
    Sandia Laboritories really made my Thanksgiving last year when I discovered 8 hours of engineering nuclear weapons history. This is just as riveting, I loved the analog photodata processors (the engineers) competing to compile an image.