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The Mars Observer spacecraft in the clean room.
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NASA/JPL

Mars Observer

The Mars Observer set out to observe the atmosphere (detailed weather rather than climate), magnetic field and surface of Mars. It carried with it 8 instruments. However, the Mars Observer (MO) failed on August 21, 1993, just prior to entering Martian orbit. Over the long cruise from Earth to Mars, some of the fuel leaked into the engines. When the engines were ignited for orbit entry, the fuel tanks blew up.

The instruments carried by MO were a camera, an altimeter, an infrared and a gamma ray spectrometer, an atmospheric sounder, a magnetometer, and a transponder and relay antenna for radio science. An altimeter would have determined the altitude of surface features, while a magnetometer would have measured the Martian magnetic field. Radio experiments would have made it possible to measure the shape of Mars and to observe the planet's upper atmosphere.

Out of the failure of Mars Observer came the Mars Surveyor Program. NASA utilized some of the same instrument technology developed for the Mars Observer on the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars '98 missions and Mars 2001 Odyssey mission which launched in April 2001.


Last modified May 10, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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