Earth probes - plans and travails
Earth probes have far from a perfect record in reaching the Red Planet. Part of this is simply that flying to Mars is hard (not to mention costing $1M a kilogram). A cartoon made at NASA a long time ago showed a probe-eating monster, called the Great Galactic Ghoul.
The Ghoul is still at work, but Earth scientists never give up on exploring their #1 planetary destination. After Russia's innovative Phobos-Grunt mission to a Martian moon failed to leave Earth orbit (controllers have not entirely given up hope of salvaging it), Russia may join in planned US-European Space Agency (ESA) missions planned for 2016 onwards. ESA is worried the US may pull out - and it might, given NASA's budget woes.
First, though, comes the next effort - the largest, most complex Mars rover ever, Curiosity, will he carried on the Mars Science
Laboratory mission, to launch at 10AM EST this Saturday. Go for Mars!