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Exploration of Mars using robotic spacecraft and landers has been challenging. The first two missions to Mars, the Soviet Mars 1960A (launched on October 10, 1960) Mars 1960B (launched on October 14, 1960) each failed shortly after launch.

Russia's next attempt, Mars 1962A, was launched on October 24, 1962, but, again, failed to reach Earth orbit.

The Soviet Mars 1 was launched on November 1, 1962. Communication with the spacecraft was lost on March 21, 1963, while the spacecraft was on its way to Mars.

The Mars 1962B mission, lauched on November 4, 1962, was the Soviet's first attempt to land a spacecraft on Mars. The booster failed and the spacecraft was lost.

The United States launched Mariner 3 on November 5, 1964. A protective shiled failed to eject causing the spacecraft's trajectory to miss Mars.

On November 28, 1964, Mariner 4 was launched. The spacecraft performed the first successful fly-by of Mars in July of 1965 and returned the first close-up photographs of the Martian surface.

The Soviets launched Zond 2 to Mars on November 30, 1964, but lost contact with the spacecraft in May of 1965.

Mariner 6 (launched February 24, 1969) and Mariner 7 (lauched March 27, 1969) sucessfully performed flybys of Mars.

The Soviet Mars 1969A was launched on the same day as Mariner 7, but exploded shortly after launch. Mars 1969B (April 2, 1969) also failed to reach Earth orbit.

The US Mariner 8, launched on May 8, 1971, also failed to reach orbit.

On May 10, 1971, the booster for the Kosmos 419 failed to put the Soviet Mars orbiter into the proper Earth orbit and the spacecraft re-entered the Earth's atmosphere on May 12, 1971.

On May 19, 1971, the Soviets launched Mars 2 which reached Mars on November 27, 1971. The Mars 2 orbiter functioned until 1972. The Mars 2 lander crashed into the surface of Mars without returning any data.

The Mars 3 lander (launched May 28, 1971) did achieve a soft landing on Mars on December 2, 1971, but it's instruments failed 20 seconds later.

Mariner 9, launched by the US on May 30, 1971, began orbiting Mars on November 13, 1971, and provided the first detailed look at the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos.

The Soviet Mars 4 spacecraft was launched on July 21, 1973. It reached Mars in February, 1974, but flew past Mars instead of going into orbit around the planet.

On July 25, 1973, the Mars 5 orbiter was launched. It went into orbit around Mars in February of 1974 and collected data including over 60 images for nine days until a problem caused the spacecraft to quit sending data to Earth. Mars 5 was intended to act as a relay for data from the Mars 6 and Mars 7 landers which were launched on March 12, 1974, and March 6, 1974.

The Mars 6 lander apparently landed on Mars but failed to send back any data after landing. Mars 7 actually missed Mars and ended up in orbit around the Sun.

The US Viking 1 (August 20, 1975) and Viking 2 (September 9, 1975) missions both successfully placed orbiters into orbit around Mars and landers on the surface of the planet. The orbiters returned more than 55,000 images. The landers returned more than 1400 images.

The Soviets launched Phobos 1 to Mars on July 7, 1988. Controllers lost contact with the spacecraft on September 2, 1988.

Phobos was launched on July 12, 1988>. In January of 1989, Phobos 2 went into orbit around Mars. The orbiter returned data until a glitch caused a loss of contact with Earth. Phobos 2 carried two Mars landers which were never released to land on the surface.

On September 25, 1992, the US launched Mars Observer. Contact with the orbiter was lost in August of 1993, three days before the craft was to enter into orbit around Mars.

The US Mars Global Surveyor was launched on November 7, 1996, and reached Mars in September of 1997.

The Russian Mars 97 was launched on November 16, 1996, and fell back to Earth the next day.

The US launched Mars Pathfinder on December 4, 1996. The spacecraft included a lander and a rover. Pathfinder landed on Mars on July 4, 1997. The Sojourner rover rolled out of the lander on July 6, 1997 and explored the surface for 83 days.

Japan launched the Nozomi (Planet B) mission on July 4, 1998. The spacecraft will reach Mars in early 2004.

The US launched Mars Climate Orbiter on December 11, 1998. The spacecraft was lost because of a navigation error caused by teh failure of controllers to convert values from English units to metric units.

The US launched the Mars Polar Lander on January 3, 1999. Contact with the lander was lost on December 3, 1999. Contact with the Deep Space 2 probes released by the lander also failed.

The US 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft was launched on April 7, 2001, and began orbiting Mars on October 24, 2001. In addition to studying the planet from orbit, the Odyssey will act as a communications relay for future Mars landers.

The European Space Agency launched the Mars Express mission on June 2, 2003. Mars Express reached Mars in December od 2003. Controllers were unabled to contact the Beagle 2 lander to determine if it had sucessfully landed on the surface of Mars.

The US launched the Mars Expedition Rovers on June 10, 2003, and on July 7, 2003. The two rovers will begin exploring the surface of Mars in early 2004.


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