Mars Polar Lander

also Mars Surveyor 1998 Lander or Mars Volatiles and Climate Surveyor (MVACS)

Mars Polar Lander was successfully launched on January 3, 1999 by a Delta II 7425, and was scheduled land near the South polar region of Mars, in the layered terrain, on December 3, 1999. The exact landing site (selected on August 25, 1999) is at 76 degrees southern areographic latitude and at 196 degrees western areographic longitude. The Mars landing was to be performed in direct approach. Instrumentation: A stereo camera, two small soil penetrators, and a Russian laser-ranging instrument. This Mars lander did not carry a rover. The penetrators were to be released prior to landing, fall through the Martian atmosphere, and should penetrate the Martian surface (also in the South polar region) to provide data from subsurface (see below). The lander itself, like the other Mars Surveyor 98 spacecraft, Mars Climate Orbiter, should study Martian weather and climate effects. In addition, the lander was intended to perform soil investigations.

Mars Surveyor Lander 1998 carried two small penetrators, which were to impact to a depth of about 2 meters into the Martian soil, and acquire data from that depth. These two mini spacecraft, named "Amundsen" and "Scott", were the Deep Space-2 part of Nasa's New Millennium Project.

About two hours before reaching Mars on December 3, 1999, the spacecraft reported that all systems were in good shape and ready for the Mars landing. The craft must have reached the Martian surface, but there was no contact after this event, neither with the main probe nor with one of the penetrators. Attempts to establish contact with the spacecraft are still ongoing, but chances are now small that this goal can be achieved. The reason for MPL's silence are unknown, at least at this time, but there is some evidence that because of a programming flaw, the onboard computer terminated braking ignition early so that the spacecraft may have crashed on Mars.

Mars Polar Lander landing site, in the south polar region (196 deg W, 76 deg S) of Mars.


Mars Polar Lander links: Deep Space 2 links:
Hartmut Frommert [contact]

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Last Modification: October 11, 1999