Mars Exploration Historical Timeline

Mars 2020 Exploration Mission Guide

Artist’s illustration of NASA’s Perseverance rover operating on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

1960s


MARSNIK 1

Failure
USSR • Oct. 10, 1960 • Flyby
Did not reach Earth orbit.

MARSNIK 2

Failure
USSR • Oct. 14, 1960 • Flyby
Did not reach Earth orbit.

SPUTNIK 22

Failure
USSR • Oct. 24, 1962 • Flyby
Achieved Earth orbit only.

MARS 1

Failure
USSR • Nov. 1, 1962 • Flyby
Radio failed at 65.9 million miles (106 million km).

SPUTNIK 24

Failure
USSR • Nov. 4, 1962 •Flyby
Achieved Earth orbit only.

MARINER 3

Failure
United States • Nov. 5, 1964 • Flyby
Shroud failed to jettison.

MARINER 4

Success
United States • Nov. 28, 1964 • Flyby
First successful flyby July 14, 1965; returned 21 photos.

First close-up image of Mars as captured during flyby of Mariner 4.

ZOND 2

Failure
USSR • Nov. 30, 1964 • Flyby
Passed Mars but radio failed, returned no planetary data.

MARINER 6

Success
United States • Feb. 24, 1969 • Flyby
Successful flyby July 31, 1969; returned 75 photos.

Mariner 6 spacecraft

MARINER 7

Success
United States • March 27, 1969 • Flyby
Successful flyby Aug. 5, 1969; returned 126 photos.

Full disc views of Mars imaged by Mariner 7 during approach in 1969.

MARS 1969A

Failure
USSR • March 27, 1969 • Orbiter
Did not reach Earth orbit.

MARS 1969B

Failure
USSR • April 2, 1969 • Orbiter
Failed during launch.


1970s


MARINER 8

Failure
United States • May 8, 1971 • Orbiter
Failed during launch.

KOSMOS 419

Failure 
USSR • May 10, 1971 • Lander
Achieved Earth orbit only.

MARS 2

Partial Success
USSR • May 19, 1971 • Orbiter & lander
Arrived Nov. 27, 1971; orbiter returned data and images; lander burned up due to steep entry.

MARS 3

Partial Success
USSR • May 28, 1971 • Orbiter, lander and rover
Arrived Dec. 3, 1971; orbiter returned data and images; lander operated on surface for 20 seconds.

MARINER 9

Success
United States • May 30, 1971 • Orbiter
Operated in orbit Nov. 13, 1971 to Oct. 27, 1972, returned 7,329 photos.

Mariner 9’s view of the “labyrinth” at the western end of Vallis Marineris.

MARS 4

Partial Success
USSR • July 21, 1973 • Orbiter
Flew past Mars Feb. 10, 1974 and collected some data, but did not achieve Mars orbit.

MARS 5

Partial Success
USSR • July 25, 1973 • Orbiter
Arrived Feb. 12, 1974, lasted a few days.

MARS 6

Partial Success
USSR • Aug. 5, 1973 • Flyby module & lander
Arrived March 12, 1974, lander failed due to fast impact; flyby module returned data

MARS 7

Failure
USSR • Aug. 9, 1973 • Flyby module & lander
Arrived March 9, 1974, lander missed the planet.

VIKING 1

Success
United States • Aug. 20, 1975 • Orbiter & lander
Entered orbit June 19, 1976, and operated until Aug. 7, 1980; landed July 20, 1976, and operated until Nov. 11, 1982.

VIKING 2

Success
United States • Sept. 9, 1975 • Orbiter & lander
Entered orbit Aug. 7, 1976, and operated until July 25, 1978; landed Sept. 3, 1976, and operated until April 11, 1980; combined, the Viking orbiters and landers returned more than 50,000 photos.

Viking 2’s image of Mars Utopian Plain.

1980s


PHOBOS 1

Failure
USSR • July 7, 1988 • Mars orbiter & Phobos lander
Lost August 1988 en route to Mars.

PHOBOS 2

Partial Success
USSR • July 12, 1988 • Mars orbiter & Phobos lander
Entered orbit, lost contact March 1989 near Phobos.


1990s


MARS OBSERVER

Failure
United States • Sept. 25, 1992 • Orbiter
Lost just before Mars arrival Aug. 21, 1993.

MARS GLOBAL SURVEYOR

Success
United States • Nov. 7, 1996 • Orbiter
Arrived Sept. 12, 1997; mapped in high detail through January 2000, completed its third extended mission in September 2006, and last communicated Nov. 2, 2006.

Spanning s a region of about 1,500 m (4,921 ft) across, this Mars Global Surveyor image shows gullies on the walls of Newton Basin in Sirenum Terra.

MARS 96

Failure
Russia • Jan. 16, 1996 • Orbiter, two landers & two penetrators
Launch vehicle failed.

MARS PATHFINDER (SOJOURNER)

Success
United States • Dec. 4, 1996 • Lander & rover
Landed July 4, 1997, completed prime mission and began extended mission Aug. 3, 1997, and last communicated on Sept. 27, 1997.

Sojourner takes a measurement of the Yogi Rock.

NOZOMI

Failure
Japan • July 4, 1998 • Orbiter
Failed to enter orbit December 2003.

MARS CLIMATE ORBITER

Failure
United States • Dec. 11, 1998 • Orbiter
Lost upon arrival Sept. 23, 1999.

MARS POLAR LANDER/DEEP SPACE 2

Failure
United States • Jan. 3, 1999 • Lander & two penetrators
Lost on arrival Dec. 3, 1999.


2000s


MARS ODYSSEY

Success
United States • March 7, 2001 • Orbiter
Entered orbit Oct. 24, 2001, completed prime mission Aug. 24, 2004, currently conducting extended mission of science collection and communication relay.

Odyssey passes above Mars’ south pole in this artist’s illustration. The spacecraft has been orbiting the Red Planet since October 24, 2001.

MARS EXPRESS/BEAGLE 2

Partial Success
Europe • June 2, 2003 • Orbiter & lander
Orbiter completed prime mission November 2005, currently in extended mission; lander lost on arrival Dec. 25, 2003.

MARS EXPLORATION ROVER-A (SPIRIT)

Success
United States • June 10, 2003 • Rover
Landed Jan. 4, 2004 for three-month prime mission inside Gusev Crater, completed several extended missions, last communicated March 22, 2010, mission declared complete May 25, 2011.

MARS EXPLORATION ROVER-B (OPPORTUNITY)

Success
United States • July 7, 2003 • Rover
Landed Jan. 25, 2004 for three-month prime mission in Meridiani Planum region, completed several extended missions, last communicated June 10, 2018, mission declared complete on Feb. 13, 2019.

Opportunity looks back toward the west rim of Endeavour Crater during the summer of 2014.

MARS RECONNAISSANCE ORBITER

Success
United States • Aug. 12, 2005 • Orbiter
Entered orbit March 12, 2006, completed prime mission 9/26/10, currently conducting extended mission of science collection and communication relay.

PHOENIX MARS LANDER

Success
United States • Aug. 4, 2007 • Lander
Landed May 25, 2008, completed prime mission and began extended mission Aug. 26, 2008, last communicated Nov. 2, 2008.


2010s


PHOBOS-GRUNT/YINGHUO 1

Failure
Russia/China • Nov. 8, 2011 • Phobos lander with sample return & Mars orbiter
Achieved Earth orbit only.

MARS SCIENCE LABORATORY (CURIOSITY)

Success
United States • Nov. 26, 2011 • Rover
Landed Aug. 6, 2012, completed prime mission, currently conducting extended science mission.

This composite image looking toward the higher regions of Mount Sharp was taken on September 9, 2015, by NASA’s Curiosity rover.

MARS ORBITER MISSION (MANGALYAAN)

Success
India • Nov. 5, 2013 • Orbiter
Entered orbit Sept. 14, 2014, completed prime mission, currently conducting extended mission.

MARS ATMOSPHERE AND VOLATILE EVOLUTION MISSION (MAVEN)

Success
United States • Nov. 18, 2013 • Orbiter;
Entered orbit Sept. 21, 2014; completed prime mission, currently conducting extended science mission.

EXOMARS 2016 (TRACE GAS ORBITER & SCHIAPARELLI LANDER)

Partial Success
Europe/Russia • March 14, 2016 • Orbiter & landing-demonstration module
Entered orbit Oct. 19, 2016, currently conducting prime mission; unsuccessful Mars impact of Schiaparelli module Oct. 19, 2016.

INSIGHT LANDER

Success
United States • May 5, 2018 • Lander
Landed Nov. 26, 2018, currently conducting prime mission at Elysium Planitia.

MARCO

Success
United States • May 5, 2018 • Two-CubeSat providing data relay for InSight Lander.
Flew by Mars and completed relay Nov. 26, 2018, concluded operations Feb. 2, 2020.

View of Mars from MarCO-B during its flyby in late 2018.

2020s


EMIRATES HOPE MISSION

United Arab Emirates • Launched July 19, 2020 • Orbiter

The United Arab Emirate’s Hope orbiter is shown with its solar panels fully deployed before final preparations for its launch this summer.

TIANWEN 1

China • Launched July 23, 2020 • Orbiter, lander & rover

Artist’s illustration of China’s Tianwen 1 lander deploying its rover on Mars.

MARS 2020

United States • NET July 30, 2020 • Rover

EXOMARS 2022

Europe/Russia • 2022 • Lander & rover

MARS TERA-HERTZ EXPLORER

Japan • 2022 • Orbiter & lander

MARS ORBITER MISSION 2

India • July 16, NET 2022 • Orbiter, possibly lander & rover

MARTIAN MOONS EXPLORATION (MMX)

Japan • NET 2024 • Orbiter, Phobos lander & sample return back to Earth

This article appeared in the 15th issue of RocketSTEM magazine.
It has since been updated to reflect information not available at the time of publication.

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