Is there a mission to Mars

History of the missions to Mars

It was not the Americans who started the long line of missions to Mars. The Russians were the first to go to the Red Planet. Over 30 more missions followed - and more than half of them failed. A chronology of events.


On October 10, the Soviet Union became the first nation to send a probe to Mars. It doesn't even reach Earth orbit.


The Soviet probes Sputnik 22, Mars 1 and Sputnik 24 fail.


The first NASA Mars mission, Mariner 3, also failed. The probe cannot be separated from the launcher.


Mariner 4 is the first probe to pass the Red Planet. It is equipped with a camera and takes 22 photos - in addition, it has instruments with which, among other things, cosmic dust, cosmic radiation and magnetic fields can be examined.

An important insight gained from the recordings: the surface of Mars is barren, barren and resembles a lunar landscape. No trace of higher life. Mariner 4 will remain functional for three years and will be used to investigate solar winds during this time.

The Soviet probe Zond 2 flies past Mars, but radio contact is lost.


NASA is sending Mariner 6 and Mariner 7 to Mars. Together they provide around 200 photos of our neighboring planet. The images of the probes show that the famous Martian channels, which the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli believed he discovered in 1877, do not exist.

False start of two Soviet probes.


Mariner 8 also fails at startup. The Soviet probe Kosmos 419, which will be the first to land on Mars, can only reach Earth orbit.

Mars 2 and Mars 3 (Soviet Union) reach the planet but provide little data. The landing module of "Mars 3" is the first earthly object to touch down on the red planet. NASA launches Mariner 9, which provides several thousand photos of Mars.


The Soviet probes Mars 4 to Mars 7 are on their way to the Red Planet. In 1974 they provide some data and photos. Mars 6 drops another capsule on the Red Planet, but radio contact with it is lost.


NASA's Viking 1 and Viking 2 probes launch for Mars - the first American missions in which spacecraft are supposed to touch down on the surface of Mars.


Viking 1 made the soft landing on the Red Planet on June 20, Viking 2 also landed successfully. The two probes provide a wealth of data and more than 50,000 photos.

The lander are equipped with gas chromatographs, mass spectrometers, meteorological instruments, color cameras, a device for taking soil samples and instruments for biological experiments.

The hope of finding traces of life, however, was not fulfilled. The Viking Orbiters work until 1978 and 1980. The landing devices last longer. Viking 1 Lander will broadcast until November 11, 1982, Viking 2 Lander until April 11, 1980.


After a 15-year hiatus, the Soviet Union launches the Mars probes Phobos 1 and Phobos 2. Both are lost on the way.


NASA loses the Mars Observer, launched in 1992, shortly before its destination.


The multinational Mars 96 mission under Russian leadership fails at the start. The rocket crashes into the sea - a major setback for many of the German scientists involved.


NASA celebrates a double success. With the Pathfinder, for the first time since the Viking series, a probe lands on the red planet. The Pathfinder and his robotic vehicle Sojourner transmit 16,000 images to Earth.

In September, the Mars Global Surveyor will enter Mars orbit. He maps the surface. The most important discovery of the mission: The radar data suggest extensive occurrences of water ice in the subsurface of the polar regions of Mars.


Japan starts exploring Mars with the launch of the Nozomi (Hope) probe. But the mission fails. Damaged by a powerful solar flare, Nozomi can no longer enter orbit around Mars. The probe will be abandoned at the end of 2003.


NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander, launched in 1998, are both lost upon arrival at their destination. An embarrassing bankruptcy for NASA, because with the Mars Climate Orbiter apparently the units of measurement meters and feet were mixed up during programming, which led to calculation errors - the probe burned up in the Martian atmosphere.

Incorrect command lines in the software of the on-board computer probably also caused the Mars Polar Lander to crash on the ground. The brake engines were switched off too early.


On October 24, 2001, NASA's Mars Odyssey probe entered orbit around the red planet. At an altitude of around 400 kilometers, it orbits Mars every two hours.

It provides data on the surface of Mars, searches for traces of earlier water resources and uses a gamma spectrometer to record the surface and mineral composition. Mars Odyssey is technically equipped so that it can serve as a radio relay to earth for subsequent landing missions.


The European Mars Express mission is a success. The probe creates a three-dimensional map of the surface of Mars with unprecedented resolution. The associated lander Beagle 2, however, remains missing. He is leaving Mars Express in mid-December. After that, no further contact can be established.

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission consists of two landing robots that take off with the aid of a Delta II launcher on June 10, 2003 at 7:58 p.m. and on July 8, 2003 at 5:18 a.m.


In January 2004, NASA's two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on Mars. At the beginning of March they deliver the sensation: there was once liquid water on Mars. Opportunity finds sulfates (sulfur compounds) that can only form in liquid water.

The two rovers transmit several hundred thousand photos to Earth. The last signals will be received from Spirit in March 2010. Even after 13 years, Opportunity is still active on the surface of Mars, sending data to Earth.


In November 2006, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter entered orbit. He discovers traces of the changeable climatic history of Mars, in the course of which water must have been present on the surface for several hundred million years.

The probe maps large parts of Mars and transmits weather data. Like Mars Odyssey, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter can also be used as a radio relay for the rovers on the surface of Mars.


In May 2008, NASA's Phoenix probe landed in the arctic latitudes of the northern Mars hemisphere. With a gripper arm more than two meters long, she is able to search for the ice suspected to be underground.

The first dredging work on Mars is a success: Phoenix can clearly detect water ice just a few centimeters below the Martian dust.

Since the days in the far north of Mars, similar to the one on Earth, are getting shorter and shorter with the approaching winter, the lifespan of the solar energy-dependent probe is limited. Your last signals will be picked up on November 2nd, 2008.


On August 6, 2012, the NASA rover Curiosity landed spectacularly on Mars. Because Curiosity is the size of a small car and, at 900 kilograms, much heavier than its predecessor, landing in the protective airbag is out of the question. It would burst on impact.

The rover is therefore lowered onto the surface on plastic ropes from a platform, the Skycrane, which is hovering 20 meters above the Martian surface with the help of brake rockets.

After just a few days, Curiosity provides further evidence of earlier water resources on Mars. Among other things, the rover finds river pebbles that have caked to form sediments.

In the further course of the mission, Curiosity will examine soil samples in the on-board laboratory for traces of simple life forms and climb the central mountain of the Gale crater in order to find further information about the climatic history of Mars in its geological layers.