Mars Exploration Chronology

by Anne M. Platoff, Information Specialist, Solar System Exploration Division Library

1960
Oct. USSR launched Korabl 4 (10/10) and Korabl 5 (10/14). Believed to have been Mars probes, both spacecraft failed in earth orbit. Reportedly, Nikita Krushchev had timed his arrival for the United Nation's opening session to coincide with the launches and carried models of the spacecraft in his luggage. When the missions failed, no mention of the launch attempts was made by the Soviets. The failures were announced by the U.S. in 1962.

1962
Oct. USSR launched Korabl 11 on 10/24. The spacecraft failed to leave earth orbit and reentered on 10/29. Nov. USSR launched Mars 1 (11/1). Korabl 13, launched three days later (11/4) failed in earth orbit and reentered on 11/5.

1963
Mar. Mars 1 experienced communications failure on 3/21. Jun. Mars 1 passed within 193,000 km (120,000 mi.) of Mars on 6/19.

1964
Nov. US launched Mariner 3 Mars probe on 11/5.. The vehicle experienced a launch failure and entered solar orbit. US launched Mariner 4 on 11/28. USSR launched Zond 2 on 11/30.

1965
May Zond 2 experienced communications failure. July Mariner 4 flew by Mars on 7/15. USSR launched Zond 3 on 7/18. Aug. Zond 2 passed within 1,500 km of Mars on 8/6.

1969
Feb. US launched Mariner 6 on 2/24. Mar. USSR launched an unannounced spacecraft on 3/27. Believed to be a Mars probe, the spacecraft may have experienced a launch failure. US launched Mariner 7 on 3/27. 1969 continued Jul. Mariner 6 flew within 3,431 km of Mars on 7/31. Aug. Mariner 7 flew within 3,430 km of Mars on 8/5.

1971
May US launched Mariner 8 on 5/8. The spacecraft failed to orbit. USSR launched Kosmos 419 on 5/10. The spacecraft failed to leave earth orbit and reentered on 5/12. This was the first use of the D-1e launch vehicle for a planetary spacecraft. USSR launched Mars 2 on 5/19. USSR launched Mars 3 on 5/28. US launched Mariner 9 on 5/30. Nov. Mariner 9 entered Mars orbit on 11/14. Mars 2 entered orbit and the lander crashed on Mars on 11/27. Dec. Mars 3 entered orbit and the lander experienced communications failure after landing on 12/2.

1972
Aug. Soviets officially terminated the Mars 2 & Mars 3 missions.

1973
Jul. USSR launched Mars 4 on 7/21. USSR launched Mars 5 on 7/25. Aug. USSR launched Mars 6 on 8/5. USSR launched Mars 7 on 8/9.

1974
Feb. Mars 4 failed to enter orbit and flew by Mars on 2/10. Mars 5 entered orbit on 2/12. Mar. Mars 7 experienced a malfunction and flew by the planet on 3/9. Mars 6 experienced a communications failure immediately prior to landing on 3/12.

1975
Aug. US launched Viking 1 spacecraft on 8/20. Sept. US launched Viking 2 spacecraft on 9/9.

1976
Jul. Viking 1 spacecraft landed on Mars on 7/20. Sept. Viking 2 spacecraft landed on Mars on 9/3.

1980
Apr. Viking 2 lander ceased communications on 4/12.

1982
Nov. Viking 1 lander ceased communications on 11/13.

1988
July USSR launched Phobos 1 on 7/7. USSR launched Phobos 2 on 7/12. Aug. Contact with Phobos 1 was lost on 8/31 after a computer command was sent that inadvertently omitted 1 character.

1989
Jan. Phobos 2 entered Mars orbit on 1/29. Mar. Contact with Phobos 2 was lost on 3/27.

1992
Sept. U.S. launched Mars Observer on 9/25.

1993
Aug. Contact with Mars Observer was lost on 8/21.

Appendix Sources: Norman L. Baker, Soviet Space Log: 1957-1967 (Washington, D.C.: Space Publications, Inc., 1967), pp. 33-34; Nicholas L. Johnson, Handbook of Soviet Lunar and Planetary Exploration (San Diego: Univelt, 1979), pp. 243-244; Joe Heyman, Spacecraft Tables 1957-1990 (San Diego: Univelt, 1991), p. 25, 26, 79, 81; Douglas Hurt, Encyclopedia of Soviet Spacecraft (New York: Exeter Books, 1987), pp. 68-74; "Soviet Space Failures are Disclosed," Missiles and Rockets 11 #11 (Sept. 10, 1962), p. 12.