Every Mission to Mars, Ever

Today, there are more spacecraft operating at Mars than any planet besides Earth. Mars has been historically unkind to our attempts to send spacecraft there, with roughly half of all Mars missions failing. That percentage has improved in recent years, but NASA remains the only space agency to have operated a spacecraft on the surface.

Every Mars Landing Attempt, Ever
Every Mars Landing Attempt, Ever This map of Mars' surface shows the location of every past, present, and future lander mission. Emily Lakdawalla for The Planetary Society. Base maps processed by Patrick McGovern from MOLA data
The Mars Exploration Family Portrait
The Mars Exploration Family Portrait The Mars Exploration Family Portrait shows every dedicated spacecraft mission to Mars. NASA / JPL / Roscosmos / JAXA / ESA / ISRO / Jason Davis / The Planetary Society

Your Guide to Tianwen-1

China’s first Mars mission will search for pockets of water beneath the surface.

Your Guide to Hope, the United Arab Emirates' Mars Mission

Hope will build a complete picture of the Martian climate.

Your Guide to InSight

NASA's InSight mission is studying the internal layering of Mars to learn more about how all planets are made.

ExoMars TGO

The European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter searches for evidence of methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could be signatures of active biological or geological processes. Its Schiaparelli probe crash-landed.

MAVEN

MAVEN, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, has provided first-of-its-kind measurements to address key questions about Mars climate and habitability and improve understanding of dynamic processes in the upper Martian atmosphere and ionosphere.

Mangalyaan

India's first Mars mission is primarily a technology demonstration mission that carries a small, 15-kilogram payload of 5 science instruments. It takes stunning full-globe pictures of Mars.

Your Guide to NASA's Curiosity Rover

NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars in 2012 to search for evidence that the planet could once have supported Earth-like life.

Your Guide to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is an orbiting spacecraft studying the geology and climate of the planet since 2006. It hosts the most powerful high-resolution camera ever sent to Mars.

Mars Express

The European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft has detected surprising concentrations of methane and evidence for recent volcanism on Mars. Its radar sounder, MARSIS, was deployed late in the mission due to spacecraft safety concerns, but is functioning well.

Odyssey

NASA’s Odyssey spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since 2001. Its original goals were to search for signs of water, make detailed maps of the planet’s surface materials, and determine radiation levels for human explorers.

Your Guide to NASA's Perseverance Rover

NASA's Perseverance rover will seek signs of life in Jezero crater, and store samples for future return to Earth.

ExoMars Rosalind Franklin

The European Space Agency's next ExoMars mission will send a rover named Rosalind Franklin to Mars to search for signs of past and present life. It will land atop the Russian-built surface platform Kazachok.

Your Guide to Mars Sample Return

Despite advances in space technology, certain science questions, including whether or not a Mars rock contains signs of ancient life, can only be answered in Earth-based laboratories.

MMX

Japan's Martian Moons eXploration mission will launch in the mid-2020s on a mission to explore the moons of Mars.

Phobos-Grunt

Russia's Phobos-Grunt sample return mission never left orbit due to a rocket failure, and eventually reentered Earth's atmosphere and crashed into the southern Pacific ocean. It was carrying The Planetary Society's LIFE experiment.

Rosetta and Philae

The European Space Agency's Rosetta and Philae spacecraft flew by Mars on 25 February 2007 on its way to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Phoenix

NASA's Phoenix spacecraft landed near Mars' north pole to study the water ice found close to the surface there. Its arm dug trenches into the soil and delivered samples to sophisticated chemical analysis instruments. It carried The Planetary Society's Visions of Mars DVD.

Mars Exploration Rovers

The twin Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), Spirit and Opportunity, were robot field geologists. They confirmed liquid water once flowed across the Martian surface. Both long outlasted their planned 90-day lifetimes. Following their landings on 3 and 24 January 2004, Spirit drove 7.73 kilometers and worked for 2210 sols (Martian days), until 22 March 2010. Opportunity drove 45.16 kilometers and worked for at least 5111 sols; the rover stopped responding on 10 June 2018, and the mission was declared over on 13 February 2019.

Mars Polar Lander

NASA's Mars Polar Lander would have studied a region near Mars' south pole. It crash-landed, carrying The Planetary Society’s Mars Microphone, the first crowdfunded science instrument to fly to another planet.

Nozomi (Planet-B)

Failed Mars orbiter (ISAS)

Launch: July 3, 1998
Mars flyby: December 14, 2003

Originally scheduled to arrive at Mars in October 1999, Nozomi failed to gain enough speed during an Earth flyby on December 21, 1998. The spacecraft also used much more fuel than predicted. A looping trajectory was developed, including two more Earth flybys, to return Nozomi to Mars for orbit insertion in December 2003. But on April 21, 2002, a powerful solar flare damaged Nozomi’s computer. As a result, Nozomi’s hydrazine fuel froze during the long interplanetary trek and mission controllers were unable to place it into orbit. Nozomi flew by Mars at a distance of 1,000 kilometers (600 miles), and is now in a 2-year orbit around the Sun.

Mars Climate Orbiter

Failed Mars orbiter (NASA)

Launch: December 11, 1998

Mars Climate Orbiter was lost on September 23, 1999, when a mathematical conversion error placed the spacecraft too close to Mars at the time of orbital insertion. Mars Climate Orbiter carried a few re-flown instruments from Mars Observer, marking the second failures for those experiments.

Mars Pathfinder & Sojourner

Successful Mars lander & rover (NASA)

Launch: December 4, 1996
Mars arrival: July 4, 1997

Mars Pathfinder’s successful airbag-assisted landing was the first successful mission to the Martian surface since Viking, 20 years earlier. The landing site was near the mouth of Ares Vallis, at 19.33°N, 33.55°W. On July 6, 1997, the six-wheeled rover, named Sojourner in a Planetary Society-run contest, rolled off a ramp and onto the Martian surface. The lander, now named the Sagan Memorial Station for The Planetary Society's co-founder Carl Sagan, returned many images as well as weather data. The original mission was scheduled to last for 30 days, but the lander and Sojourner continued to transmit data until September 27, 1997 when contact with the lander was lost.

Mars 96

Failed Mars orbiter, lander, & 2 penetrators (Russian Space Agency)

Launch: November 16, 1996

The rocket carrying the spacecraft launched successfully, but its fourth stage ignited prematurely and sent the spacecraft crashing into the ocean. Several of the science instruments originally built for Mars 96 were later flown on ESA’s Mars Express.

Mars Global Surveyor

Highly successful orbiter (NASA)

Launch: November 7, 1996
Mars arrival: September 12, 1997
Contact lost: November 5, 2006

Mars Global Surveyor was the first completely successful Mars orbiter since Viking 1 shut down in 1980. The start of Mars Global Surveyor’s science mission was delayed due to a problem with one of its solar panels that caused its aerobraking period (which reduced its initial orbit from an ellipse to a low-altitude, near circular one) to last for a year and a half. Once science operations began in March 1999, Mars Global Surveyor provided scientists with a wealth of images and data, including the highest-resolution images yet achieved from orbit. Many of the Mars Observer instruments were re-flown on Mars Global Surveyor. Its mission was extended three times, making it the longest-lived spacecraft in Martian orbit at the time contact was lost on November 5, 2006.

Mars Observer

Failed Mars orbiter (NASA)

Launch: September 25, 1992
Contact lost: August 21, 1993

Mars Observer was designed to study the Red Planet from orbit. On August 21, 1993, only three days away from Mars, all contact with the spacecraft was suddenly lost. Scientists were unable to determine the cause of the failure. It is possible that Mars Observer followed its onboard program and is in orbit around Mars. However, the results of failure investigations suggest that a fuel line ruptured during tank pressurization, which would have caused the spacecraft to spin uncontrollably and fail to enter orbit. Most of the science instruments that were originally built for Mars Observer were eventually “re-flown” on subsequent orbiters.

Phobos 2

Mostly failed Mars orbiter & 2 Phobos landers

Launch: July 12, 1988
Mars arrival: January 29, 1989

Phobos 2 was designed to orbit Mars and land a "hopper" and a lander on the surface of Phobos. The spacecraft successfully went into orbit and began sending back preliminary data. Then, on March 27, 1989, just before the spacecraft was to move within 50 meters of Phobos and deploy the two landers, the spacecraft's onboard computer malfunctioned and the mission was lost.

Phobos 1

Failed Mars orbiter (USSR)

Launch: July 7, 1988

Phobos 1 was designed to study the Sun and interplanetary space while on its way to Mars. Once in orbit around Mars, it was going to study the Red Planet and take close-up images of its moon Phobos. However, on September 2, 1988, only two months in to the flight, controllers on the ground accidentally uploaded software containing a command that deactivated the spacecraft's attitude control thrusters. The spacecraft then turned its solar panels away from the Sun and was unable to recharge its batteries. As a result, the mission was lost.

Viking 2

Successful orbiter & lander (NASA)

Launch: September 9, 1975
Mars arrival: August 7, 1976
Mars landing: September 3, 1976

The Viking 2 lander touched down in the Utopia Planitia, on the opposite side of the planet and almost 1,500 kilometers closer to the north pole than Viking 1 at 47.27°N, 225.99°W. One of the lander's legs settled down on a rock, so the entire lander was tilted by about 8 degrees. The lander took extensive atmospheric readings and conducted experiments on soil samples that it had collected with a scoop. The Viking 2 lander quit operating on April 11, 1980, when its batteries failed, but it lasted long enough to see multiple winters come to its landing site and to see it cover with frost. The Viking 2 orbiter was shut down on July 25, 1978, after 706 orbits. The Viking 1 and 2 landers returned 1,400 images from the Martian surface. The orbiters took 50,000 images, producing a global atlas that is still used today.

Viking 1

Successful orbiter & lander (NASA)

Launch: August 20, 1975
Mars arrival: June 19, 1976
Mars landing: July 20, 1976

When Viking 1 entered orbit at Mars, it began taking pictures of the surface in search of a safe landing site for the lander. Mission planners were hoping for a July 4th landing, but the original site turned out to be too rocky. Another site was chosen and the first successful Mars landing took place on July 20, 1976, the seventh anniversary of the first Moon landing. Viking 1 landed in Chryse Planitia at 22.48°N, 49.97°W. The lander took extensive weather readings and conducted experiments on soil samples collected with a scoop. The orbiter was powered down on August 17, 1980 after 1,400 orbits. The lander survived on the surface until November 13, 1982.

Mars 7

Failed descent attempt

Launch: August 9, 1973

The Mars 7 lander separated too early, causing it to miss the planet by 1,300 kilometers (800 miles).

Mars 6

Slightly successful descent craft and flyby

Launch: August 5, 1973
Mars arrival: March 12, 1974

The Mars 6 descent craft separated successfully from the main spacecraft and descended through the atmosphere, transmitting 224 seconds of data before abruptly cutting off (either when the retrorockets fired or when it slammed into the ground). Although this was the first data of its kind (from within the Martian atmosphere), most of it was garbled and unusable due to the microchip problem. Mars 6 landed at 23.90°S, 19.42°W.

Mars 5

Initially successful Mars orbiter, failed after 22 days

Launch: July 25, 1973
Mars arrival: February 12, 1974

Mars 5 entered orbit successfully, but after completing 22 orbits and returning 60 images the spacecraft malfunctioned and the mission ended.

Mars 4

Failed Mars orbiter attempt (successful as a flyby) (USSR)

Launch: July 21, 1973
Mars flyby: February 10, 1974

The microchip problem caused the failure of the Mars 4 orbiter to fire its orbit insertion rockets. It flew by Mars at a distance of 2,200 kilometers (1,370 miles), taking one set of images and collecting limited data. It continued to function after the flyby, returning data from solar orbit.

Mars 2

Successful Mars orbiter and failed descent craft (USSR)

Launch: May 19, 1971
Mars arrival: November 27, 1971

Mars 3

Somewhat successful Mars orbiter and very briefly successful descent craft (USSR)

Launch: May 28, 1971
Mars arrival: December 2, 1971

The identical Mars 2 and Mars 3 spacecraft each released descent craft 4.5 hours prior to their arrivals at Mars. But the landers had the misfortune of arriving at Mars during one of the greatest dust storms in recorded history. The Mars 2 probe descended at a steeper angle and faster rate than intended and crashed near 45°S, 313°W. However, the Mars 3 probe used aerobraking, parachutes, and retrorockets to descend successfully to a soft landing near 45°S, 158°W. It operated for 20 seconds on the surface before mysteriously failing, possibly because it was blown over by the wind. Before failing, Mars 3 may have deployed the first tiny rover onto the surface of Mars. The Mars 2 orbiter was successfully placed in an 18-hour orbit. The spacecraft completed 362 orbits. The Mars 3 orbiter, short on fuel, was unable to obtain its intended 18-hour orbit. Instead, the spacecraft ended up in an almost 13-day orbit around the planet and completed only 20 orbits. Both spacecraft were shut down on August 22, 1972. Together, Mars 2 & 3 returned 60 images of Mars, recorded temperatures ranging from -110 to 13 degrees Celsius (-166 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit), produced surface relief maps and studied the Martian gravity and magnetic fields.

Mariner 9

Successful Mars orbiter (NASA)

Launch: May 30, 1971
Mars arrival: November 14, 1971

Mariner 9 was the first spacecraft to go into orbit around another planet. However, excitement for its arrival was subdued by a dark cloud -- literally. A Martian dust storm, which had started in late September 1971, had grown to cover the entire planet. When Mariner 9 arrived in November, the only surface features visible were the summit of Olympus Mons and the three volcanoes of Tharsis Ridge. Mission scientists had to wait about a month and a half until the dust settled before they could begin the science portion of the mission. When the spacecraft ran out of fuel almost a year later (on October 27, 1972), Mariner 9 had taken a total of 7,329 images of Mars, studied the atmospheric and surface composition of the planet, the density and pressure of its atmosphere as well as the planet's gravity and topography. The spacecraft also provided scientists with the first close-up views of Phobos and Deimos, the two moons of Mars.

Kosmos 419

Failed Mars orbiter attempt (USSR)

Launch: May 10, 1971

Kosmos 419 reached Earth orbit, but its fourth stage rocket, which would have sent the spacecraft on its way to Mars, failed to ignite. The spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere and was destroyed.

Mariner 8

Failed Mars flyby attempt (NASA)

Launch: May 8, 1971

Mariner 8, a twin to the successful Mariner 9, failed to reach Earth orbit.

Mars 1969B

Failed Mars orbiter attempt (USSR)

Launch: April 2, 1969

The first stage of the rocket launching this mission to Mars failed almost immediately after liftoff.

Mars 1969A

Failed Mars orbiter attempt (USSR)

Launch: March 27, 1969

The third stage of the rocket launching this mission to Mars failed, caught fire, and exploded, causing the remaining pieces to crash land back on Earth.

Mariner 6

Successful Mars flyby (NASA)

Launch: February 24, 1969
Mars flyby: July 31, 1969

Mariner 6 and 7 were identical spacecraft arriving at Mars five days apart. Mariner 6 flew by Mars at an altitude of 3,431 kilometers (2,131 miles) and Mariner 7 at 3,430 kilometers (2,131 miles). Mariner 6 returned 75 images, and Mariner 7 126 images. Data from the twin spacecraft helped establish the mass, radius, and shape of Mars and revealed that its southern polar ice cap was composed of carbon dioxide. The spacecraft are now in solar orbits.

Mariner 7

Successful Mars flyby (NASA)

Launch: March 27, 1969
Mars flyby: August 5, 1969

Mariner 6 and 7 were identical spacecraft arriving at Mars five days apart. Mariner 6 flew by Mars at an altitude of 3,431 kilometers (2,131 miles) and Mariner 7 at 3,430 kilometers (2,131 miles). Mariner 6 returned 75 images, and Mariner 7 126 images. Data from the twin spacecraft helped establish the mass, radius, and shape of Mars and revealed that its southern polar ice cap was composed of carbon dioxide. The spacecraft are now in solar orbits.

Zond 2

Failed Mars flyby and descent craft attempt (USSR)

Launch: November 30, 1964

Controllers lost contact with Zond 2 after a mid-course correction maneuver while the spacecraft was on its way to Mars. The spacecraft is now in a solar orbit.

Mariner 4

Successful Mars flyby (NASA)

Launch: November 28, 1964

Mars flyby: July 14, 1965

Mariner 4 was the first spacecraft to fly by Mars and obtain close-up pictures of the Red Planet, passing within 9,844 kilometers (6,117 miles) of Mars. It then took four days to transmit the data back to Earth. Mariner 4 imaged a large, ancient crater on Mars and confirmed the existence of a thin Martian atmosphere composed largely of carbon dioxide. Once past Mars, the spacecraft continued on its way, returning data until October 1965, when the orientation of its antenna made communication with Earth impossible. However, scientists were able to re-establish contact with Mariner 4 in late 1967 and continued to receive data until December 20, 1967, when the mission was terminated. The spacecraft is now in a solar orbit.

Mariner 3

Failed Mars flyby attempt (NASA)

Launch: November 5, 1964

A shield that was designed to protect Mariner 3's instruments during launch failed to release once the spacecraft had reached Earth orbit. With its instruments covered and the extra weight of the shield dragging it down, the spacecraft was unable to obtain the necessary trajectory to send it on to Mars. The spacecraft is now in a solar orbit.

Mars 1 (Sputnik 23)

Failed Mars flyby attempt (USSR)

Launch: November 1, 1962

Mars 1 launched successfully and began the trip to Mars, returning data on interplanetary space. However, controllers lost contact with Mars 1 on March 21, 1963, when the spacecraft was 107 million kilometers (66 million miles) from Earth when signal was lost. The spacecraft is now in a solar orbit.

Korabl 11 (Sputnik 22)

Failed Mars flyby attempt (USSR)

Launch: October 24, 1962

Korabl 11 broke apart after reaching Earth orbit. The debris reentered Earth's atmosphere and was tracked by the U.S. Ballistic Missile Early Warning System in Alaska, who first thought it was a Soviet ICBM attack in response to the ongoing Cuban Missile Crisis.

Korabl 13 (Sputnik 24)

Failed Mars flyby attempt (USSR)

Launch: November 4, 1962

Korabl 13 broke apart in Earth orbit during a burn to transfer the probe to a Mars trajectory.

Korabl 4 (Marsnik 1)

Failed Mars flyby attempt (USSR)

Launch: October 10, 1960

Korabl 5 (Marsnik 2)

Failed Mars flyby attempt (USSR)

Launch: October 14, 1960

Korabl 4 and 5 were the Soviet Union's first attempts at interplanetary probes. The third stage of both launch vehicles failed, and neither obtained Earth orbit.