As Americans celebrate Labor Day 2008, six flags stand in silent salute to the U.S. workforce on Mars. Three of the flags are on spacecraft still exploring Mars. Those include NASA's twin rovers and the Phoenix lander. One of the flags, on Mars Pathfinder, landed July 4, 1997. Two, on the Viking spacecraft, arrived in 1976, the year of the U.S. bicentennial.
The string of successful surface missions has been possible only with the help of other spacecraft. From orbit, those spacecraft have taken spectacular images. They have collected important data about Martian climate and geology. They have carried cameras so powerful they can pinpoint safe places to land. Today, those spacecraft include NASA's Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The European Space Agency's Mars Express joins them.
These and all Mars missions are a testimonial to teamwork and the spirit of exploration.
Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell