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Quick Facts: Mars 96

Mars 96 Orbiter

The scientific goal of Mars 96 was to analyze the planet's evolutionary history of its surface, atmosphere, and inner structure. (Courtesy DLR Institute of Planetary Exploration)

Mission Introduction

The Russian Mars 96 mission was designed to send an orbiter, two small autonomous stations, and two surface penetrators to Mars to investigate the evolution and contemporary physics of the planet by studying the physical and chemical processes which took place in the past and which currently take place.

Mars 96 was scheduled to arrive at Mars on September 12, 1997, about 10 months after launch, on a direct trajectory. About 4 to 5 days before arrival the small surface stations would have been released. The orbiter was to go into an elliptical 3-day transfer orbit about Mars, and the two penetrators to descend to the surface during the first month of orbit.

The Mars 96 Orbiter carried 12 instruments to study the surface and atmosphere of Mars, 7 instruments to study plasma, fields, and particles, and 3 instruments for astrophysical studies. There were also radio science, a navigation TV camera, and a radiation and dosimetry control complex. The instruments were located directly on the sides of the craft, on one of the two platforms attached to the sides of the craft, or on the edges of the solar panels.

The Mars 96 spacecraft was launched into Earth orbit, but failed to achieve insertion into Mars cruise trajectory and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on November 17, 1996, and crashed within a presumed 320 km by 80 km area which includes parts of the Pacific Ocean, Chile, and Bolivia. The cause of the crash is not known.

LASP Roles

LASP provided:

  • The SVET instrument, a high-resolution mapping spectrophotometer
  • SVET instrument principal investigator, Larry Esposito

LASP Instruments

The SVET instrument was a high-resolution mapping spectrophotometer.

The main scientific objectives of SVET were:

  • spectrophotometry of the planet in absorption bands of some rocks that may exist on the Martian surface in order to determine the surface composition
  • study of the nature of aerosols by measuring spectral and angular distributions off brightness both above the planetary limb and of certain cloud-covered areas
  • TERMOSCAN data conversion into digital form compatible with that of the MORION system

Quick Facts

Launch date: November 16, 1996
Launch location: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Tyuratam, Kazakstan
Launch vehicle: Proton-K
Mission target: Mars
Mission duration: Spacecraft failed to achieve insertion into Mars cruise trajectory
Other key dates:

  • November 17, 1996: Spacecraft re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and crashed

Other organizations involved:

  • Russian Space Agency