JJF's Monograph

Spacecraft to Mars

Pricelists for U.S.A Mars Missions:
Mariner Flights | Viking Flights | Pathfinder Flights | Global Surveyer Flights

Pricelists for U.S.S.R. Mars missions:

Brief Histories of...
Mariner Flights | Viking Flights | Pathfinder Flights | Global Surveyer Flights

Brief history of early space exploration beyond earth and its satellite the Moon ...by the Mariner Spacecrafts

The two closest planetary neighbors of Earth are Venus and Mars and these were focused on for observation in the early days on man's exploration of our solar system.

The U.S. had a series of spacecraft or space probes called "Mariner". Mariner 1 and 2 were launched in 1962 to study Venus.

The first U.S. spacecraft launched for Mars exploration was on November 5, 1964. This mission, called Mariner 3, went into solar orbit as it had a shroud failure preventing it from flying by Mars.

Mariner 4 was launched a few weeks later on November 28, 1964 and was the first manmade spacecraft to pass within about 6,000 miles (9,700 kilometers) of Mars after a journey of 228 days.

On July 14, 1965, the Mariner 4 spacecraft rendezvoused with Mars and sent the first close-up photographs which showed with startling clarity that the surface of Mars closely resembled that on the Moon.

Other Mariner missions to Mars include Mariner 6, 7, 8, and 9 to further explore the red planet. The first U.S. spacecraft to land on Mars was a spacecraft called Viking 1 which occurred on July 20, 1976.

The U.S.S.R.'s first attempt to study Mars was in 1960 with two launches, both of which failed. The Russian's next attempts were in 1962 with three launches, one of which was called "MARS-1". These attempts also failed to achieve their goal of going to Mars. Their next Mars probe was not until 1971 and this started a series of additional Mars probes during the 1970s which included landing on the surface of Mars.

Check out my online lists which include the commemorate covers for the U.S.S.R. Mars missions: USSR ANKLAM Covers and USSR SWANSON Covers.

Mariner 4 Spacecraft

Same spacecraft as Mariner 4

Mariner 3 spacecraft

Mariner 3 was launched on November 5, 1964 and was lost when its protective shroud failed to eject as the craft was placed into interplanetary space. It was intended for a Mars flyby with Mariner 4 but this never happened. Unable to collect the Sun's energy for power from its solar panels, the probe soon died when its batteries ran out. It is now in solar orbit.

Mariner 4 Spacecraft Mariner 4 spacecraft

Mariner 4 provided scientists with the first glimpse of Mars at close range (6,118 miles above the surface). It was launched on Nov 28, 1964 and carried a TV camera and 6 other science instruments to study interplanetary space between the orbits of Earth and Mars.

Mariner 6 & 7 Spacecraft Mariner 6 and 7 spacecraft

Both Mariner 6 and 7 were designed to fly over the equator and southern hemisphere of Mars. Mariner 6 was launched on February 24, 1969 and Mariner 7 was launched on March 27, 1969. Mariner 6 reached mars on July 31, 1969. Mariner 7 reached Mars on August 4, 1969. The closest approach to Mars for both spacecraft was approximately 2,200 miles.

Mariner 9 Spacecraft Mariner 8 spacecraft

Mariner 8 failed on an May 08, 1971 launch due to a second stage failure. It was intended for a Mars flyby

Mariner 9 Spacecraft Mariner 9 spacecraft

Mariner 9 was the first spacecraft to orbit another planet. It was launched on May 30, 1971 and circled Mars twice each day for a full year, photograhing the surface and analyzing the atmosphere with infrared and ultraviolet instruments. Mariner 9 took photographs of 100 percent of the planet's surface and took the first closeup photos of the martian moons, Deimos and Phobos.


A brief history of the Viking exploration to the planet Mars

Viking was designed to orbit Mars and to land and operate on the planet's surface. Two identical spacecraft, each consisting of a lander and an orbiter, were built. The primary mission objectives were to 1) obtain high resolution images of the Martian surface, 2) characterize the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface, and 3) search for evidence of life.

The two Viking landers were the first spacecraft to conduct prolonged scientific studies on the surface of another planet. Instruments aboard the spacecraft provided valuable information on the Martian atmosphere and surface. Biological experiments on the Viking landers did not detect signs of life or any of the organic compounds that are abundant on Earth.

Courtesy NASA JPL and Smithsonian Institution

Viking 1 spacecraft

Viking 1 was launched on August 20, 1975 and reached Mars orbit on June 19, 1976.

Courtesy NASA JPL

Viking 1 Lander

Viking 1 landed on Mars on July 20, 1976, on the western slope of Chryse Planitia (the Plains of Gold). It continued to transmit photographs and other data periodically from the Martian surface until November 1982, almost 6-1/2 years after its 1976 landing.

Courtesy NASA JPL and Smithsonian Institution

Viking 2 spacecraft

Viking 2 was launched on September 9, 1975 and reached Mars orbit on August 7, 1976.

Courtesy NASA JPL

Viking 2 Lander

Viking 2 landed on Mars on September 3, 1976, at Utopia Planitia. It ceased operating in April 1980.

Courtesy NASA JPL and Smithsonian Institution

A brief history of the Pathfinder exploration to the planet Mars

The Mars Pathfinder is the second of NASA's low-cost planetary Discovery missions. The mission consists of a stationary lander and a surface rover. The mission's primary objective is to demonstrate the feasibility of low-cost landings on and exploration of the Martian surface. This objective was met by tests of communications between the rover and lander, and the lander and Earth, and tests of the imaging devices and sensors. The spacecraft was launched on December 4, 1996 and arrived on Mars on July 4, 1997.

Pathfinder spacecraft

The flight system was launched on a Delta II-7925 launch vehicle which includes a Payload Assist Module (PAM)-D upper stage, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, December 4, 1996.

Upon arrival at Mars on July 4, 1997, the cruise stage was jettisoned and the spacecraft properly oriented itself for atmospheric entry. The spacecraft then entered the Martian atmosphere, and deployed the parachute, rocket braking system, and air bag system for a soft, upright landing.

Courtesy NASA JPL

Sojourner Rover

The Sojourner Rover is a six-wheeled vehicle controlled by an Earth-based operator, using images obtained by both the rover and lander systems. Due to a time delay between 6 and 41 minutes depending on the relative position of Earth and Mars, some autonomous control by the rover is required.

Courtesy NASA JPL


A brief history of the Global Surveyer exploration to the planet Mars

In November 1996, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory began America's return to Mars after a 20-year absence by launching the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft. This mission will usher in a new and exciting era of scientific missions to study the red planet.

Over the course of a full Martian year, Surveyor will return an unprecedented amount of data regarding Mars' surface features, atmosphere, and magnetic properties. Scientists will use the data gathered from this mission both to learn about the Earth by comparing it to Mars, and to build a comprehensive data set to aid in planning future missions.

Mars and Earth shared similar conditions billions of years ago, but appear much different today. A comparison of Mars and Earth will allow scientists to understand Earth's history and possibly its future.

Courtesy NASA JPL

Global Surveyer spacecraft

The Surveyor spacecraft was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida on 7 November 1996 aboard a Delta-7925 rocket. The spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics, will travel nearly 466 million miles over the course of a 300-day cruise to reach Mars on September 12, 1997.

Courtesy NASA JPL


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This page last updated on April 14, 1999 13:46