Mars Polar Lander

Mars Polar Lander

Courtesy of NASA

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/past/polarlander.html



Overview
Mars Polar Lander would land on the Martian surface near the south polar ice cap. It had cameras and a robotic arm to gather data for about 3 months. Attached to the lander during the flight to Mars were two probes called Deep Space 2. They were basketball-sized and weighed 5 pounds each. When Mars Polar Lander was positioned above the Martian south pole, Deep Space 2 would separate and land without parachutes at high speed so they could penetrate the Martian surface by about 2 feet.


Launch
January 3, 1999


Arrival
December 3, 1999


End of Mission
(last communication) December 3, 1999; (declared a loss) January 17, 2000


Goals
Analyze soil layers and look for evidence of water ice. Measure Martian soil composition at and below the surface.


Findings
Failed mission for both Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2. Deep Space 2 separated as planned but no data was ever received. Mars Polar Lander was out of communication during landing, but communication was never reestablished. It is presumed that there was a premature shutdown of the descent engines, which caused the lander to impact at too high a speed. Mars Polar Lander was lost.