Mars Climate Orbiter Crashes on Mars


The Mars Climate Orbiter

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

September 23. 1999

After a more than 9 months, the Mars Climate Orbiter arrived at Mars on schedule, on September 23, 1999, in order to be inserted into Mars orbit. After Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI), the spacecraft was intended to become the first interplanetary weather satellite. Mars Climate Orbiter, the first of the two Mars Surveyor 1998 spacecraft (the other being the Mars Polar Lander), was successfully launched on December 11, 1998. After the spacecraft passed behind Mars it never emerged or made radio contact. NASA believe Mars Climate Orbiter was at too low an altitude and was destroyed by atmospheric stresses and friction at this low altitude.

The Mars Curse

38 missions to Mars have been attempted, of those 19 have failed.  Twelve of the missions included attempts to land on the surface, but only seven transmitted data after landing.  Because of this high failure rate of missions to explore Mars it has become known as the Mars curse.  Most of the failure were on early attempts by the Soviet and later Russian Mars probe programthat suffered several technical difficulties. Modern missions have an improved success rate; however, the challenge, complexity and length of the missions make it inevitable that failures will occur.