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Mariner 3 and 4
Mariner 3 Launch: Nov. 5, 1964
Mariner 4 Launch: Nov. 28, 1964
Mariner 3 and 4 were identical spacecraft designed to carry out the first flybys of Mars. Mariner 3 was launched on November 5, 1964, but the shroud encasing the spacecraft atop its rocket failed to open properly, and Mariner 3 did not get to Mars. Three weeks later, on November 28, 1964, Mariner 4 was launched successfully on an eight-month voyage to the red planet.
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Mariner 6 and 7
Mariner 6 Launch: Feb. 24, 1969
Mariner 7 Launch: Mar. 27, 1969
In 1969, Mariner 6 and Mariner 7 completed the first dual mission to Mars, flying by over the equator and south polar regions and analyzing the Martian atmosphere and surface with remote sensors, as well as recording and relaying hundreds of pictures.
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Mariner 8 and 9
Mariner 8 Launch: May 8, 1971
Mariner 9 Launch: May 30, 1971; Arrival: Nov. 13, 1971
Mariner 8 and 9 were the third and final pair of Mars missions in NASA's Mariner series of the 1960s and early 1970s. Unfortunately, Mariner 8 failed during launch on May 8, 1971. Mariner 9 was launched successfully on May 30, 1971, and became the first artificial satellite of Mars when it arrived and went into orbit.
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Viking 1 Launch: Aug. 20, 1975; Arrival: Jun. 19, 1976
Viking 2 Launch: Sept. 9, 1975; Arrival: Aug. 7, 1976
NASA's Viking Project found a place in history when it became the first mission to land a spacecraft safely on the surface of another planet. Two identical spacecraft, each consisting of a lander and an orbiter, were built. Each orbiter-lander pair flew together and entered Mars orbit; the landers then separated and descended to the planet's surface.
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Launch: Sept. 25, 1992
After a 17-year gap since its last mission to the red planet, the United States launched Mars Observer on September 25, 1992. The spacecraft was based on a commercial Earth-orbiting communications satellite that had been converted into an orbiter for Mars. The payload of science instruments was designed to study the geology, geophysics and climate of Mars.
The mission ended with disappointment on August 22, 1993, when contact was lost with the spacecraft shortly before it was to enter orbit around Mars. Science instruments from Mars Observer are being reflown on two other orbiters, Mars Global Surveyor and 2001 Mars Odyssey.
Launch: Dec. 4, 1996
Mars Pathfinder, consisting of a lander and the Sojourner rover, returned an unprecedented amount of data as they explored an ancient flood plain in Mars' northern hemisphere known as Ares Vallis.
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Mars Climate Orbiter
Launch: Dec. 11, 1998
Mars Climate Orbiter was designed to function as an interplanetary weather satellite and a communications relay for Mars Polar Lander. The orbiter carried two science instruments: a copy of an atmospheric sounder on the Mars Observer spacecraft lost in 1993, and a new, lightweight color imager combining wide- and medium-angle cameras.
Mars Climate Orbiter was lost on arrival September 23, 1999. Engineers concluded that the spacecraft entered the planet's atmosphere too low and probably burned up.
Mars Polar Lander/Deep Space 2
Launch: Jan. 3, 1999
Mars Polar Lander was an ambitious mission to set a spacecraft down on the frigid terrain near the edge of Mars' south polar cap and dig for water ice with a robotic arm. Piggybacking on the lander were two small probes called Deep Space 2 designed to impact the Martian surface to test new technologies.
Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2 were lost at arrival December 3, 1999.
+ Archived site: Mars Polar Lander
+ Archived site: Deep Space 2
Mars Global Surveyor
Launch: Nov. 7, 1996
Arrival: Sept. 12, 1997
Mars Global Surveyor operated longer at Mars than any other spacecraft in history, and for more than four times as long as the prime mission originally planned. The spacecraft returned detailed information that has overhauled understanding about Mars.
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Launch: Aug. 4, 2007
Arrival: May 25, 2008
The Phoenix Mars Lander successfully landed on the north polar region of Mars. Its mission is to dig up and analyze icy soil. The mission is the first chosen for NASA's Scout program, an initiative for smaller, lower-cost, competed spacecraft. Named for the resilient mythological bird, Phoenix uses a lander that was intended for use by 2001's Mars Surveyor lander prior to its cancellation. It also carries a complex suite of instruments that are improved variations of those that flew on the lost Mars Polar Lander.
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