Mars series – part four: successful U.S. Mars mission (1996 – 2007)

Part Four in the Mars series
Successful U.S. Mars Missions (1996 -2007)

Mars Global Surveyor – Orbiter

MGS was launched November 7, 1996 inaugurating a 20-year absence of the United States exploring Mars. MGS completed its mission in January 2001. NASA lost contact with it in November 5th, 2006, and officially ended the mission in January 2007.

Subframe of a M R O C T X image showing the location of the fossil fans identified in M G S M O C images in Melas Chasma.
Fossil Fans in Melas Chasma
Image credit: NASA

Mars Pathfinder – Lander & Surface Rover

Mars Pathfinder was launched December 4, 1996, landing on Ares Vallis on Mars, July 4, 1997. After landing the craft delivered the rover Sojourner to the surface for scientific exploration. The mission performed experiments aimed at helping us better understand the Martian atmosphere, climate, geology and the composition of its rocks and soil.

https://i2.wp.com/mars.jpl.nasa.gov/MPF/parker/TwnPks_RkGdn_left_sm.jpg
Twin Peaks Left View
Image credit: NASA/JPL

2001 Mars Odyssey – Orbiter

The 2001 Mars Odyssey Orbiter launched on April 7, 2001, reaching Martian orbit on October 24, 2001. It is currently operational. Mars Odyssey is helping us understand Mars’ past and present water and volcanic activity. Our hope is to learn of life ever existed on Mars. NASA has extended the mission of 2001 Mars Odyssey presently to September 2008.

This mosaic shows 36 proposed landing sites for NASA's next Mars rover, in the Mars Science Laboratory mission.
Martian terrain
Image credit: NASA

Mars Exploration Rovers – Two Rovers

Spirit Rover – launched 10 June 2003. Spirit Rover landed on Mars 4 January 2004. It is still operational. Updates can be found here.


Artist’s Concept of Rover on Mars (credit: Maas Digital LLC)

Opportunity Rover – launched 7 July 2003, reaching Mars 25 January 2004. Like its sister Spirit, Opportunity Rover performs extensive geological analysis of Martian rocks and planetary surface features.

Layer of rock exposed inside Victoria Crater
A layer of light-toned rock exposed inside Victoria Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars . Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Phoenix Mars Lander – Lander (August 4, 2007)

Phoenix Mars Lander was launched 4 August 2007 and is due to land in the Spring 2008.

“Phoenix will be the first mission to touch water-ice on Mars. Its robotic arm will dig to an icy layer believed to lie just beneath the surface. The mission will study the history of the water in the ice, monitor weather of the polar region, and investigate whether the subsurface environment in the far-northern plains of Mars has ever been favorable for sustaining microbial life.” NASA statement from press release.

launch of Phoenix
NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a Delta II rocket. Image credit: NASA

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~ by tellinghistory on December 25, 2007.

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