Every Mission to Mars in One Visualization

chart showing ever mission to mars ever attempted

Timeline: A Historical Look at Every Mission to Mars

Within our Solar System, Mars is one of the most similar planets to Earth—both have rocky landscapes, solid outer crusts, and cores made of molten rock.

Because of its similarities to Earth and proximity, humanity has been fascinated by Mars for centuries. In fact, it’s one of the most explored objects in our Solar System.

But just how many missions to Mars have we embarked on, and which of these journeys have been successful? This graphic by Jonathan Letourneau shows a timeline of every mission to Mars since 1960 using NASA’s historical data.

A Timeline of Mars Explorations

According to a historical log from NASA, there have been 48 missions to Mars over the last 60 years. Here’s a breakdown of each mission, and whether or not they were successful:

# Launch Name Country Result
1 1960 Korabl 4 USSR (flyby) Failure
2 1960 Korabl 5 USSR (flyby) Failure
3 1962 Korabl 11 USSR (flyby) Failure
4 1962 Mars 1 USSR (flyby) Failure
5 1962 Korabl 13 USSR (flyby) Failure
6 1964 Mariner 3 US (flyby) Failure
7 1964 Mariner 4 US (flyby) Success
8 1964 Zond 2 USSR (flyby) Failure
9 1969 Mars 1969A USSR Failure
10 1969 Mars 1969B USSR Failure
11 1969 Mariner 6 US (flyby) Success
12 1969 Mariner 7 US (flyby) Success
13 1971 Mariner 8 US Failure
14 1971 Kosmos 419 USSR Failure
15 1971 Mars 2 Orbiter/Lander USSR Failure
16 1971 Mars 3 Orbiter/Lander USSR Success/Failure
17 1971 Mariner 9 US Success
18 1973 Mars 4 USSR Failure
19 1973 Mars 5 USSR Success
20 1973 Mars 6 Orbiter/Lander USSR Success/Failure
21 1973 Mars 7 Lander USSR Failure
22 1975 Viking 1 Orbiter/Lander US Success
23 1975 Viking 2 Orbiter/Lander US Success
24 1988 Phobos 1 Orbiter USSR Failure
25 1988 Phobos 2 Orbiter/Lander USSR Failure
26 1992 Mars Observer US Failure
27 1996 Mars Global Surveyor US Success
28 1996 Mars 96 Russia Failure
29 1996 Mars Pathfinder US Success
30 1998 Nozomi Japan Failure
31 1998 Mars Climate Orbiter US Failure
32 1999 Mars Polar Lander US Failure
33 1999 Deep Space 2 Probes (2) US Failure
34 2001 Mars Odyssey US Success
35 2003 Mars Express Orbiter/Beagle 2 Lander ESA Success/Failure
36 2003 Mars Exploration Rover – Spirit US Success
37 2003 Mars Exploration Rover – Opportunity US Success
38 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter US Success
39 2007 Phoenix Mars Lander US Success
40 2011 Mars Science Laboratory US Success
41 2011 Phobos-Grunt/Yinghuo-1 Russia/China Failure
42 2013 Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution US Success
43 2013 Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) India Success
44 2016 ExoMars Orbiter/Schiaparelli EDL Demo Lander ESA/Russia Success/Failure
45 2018 Mars InSight Lander US Success
46 2020 Hope Orbiter UAE Success
47 2020 Tianwen-1 Orbiter/Zhurong Rover China Success
48 2020 Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover US Success

The first mission to Mars was attempted by the Soviets in 1960, with the launch of Korabl 4, also known as Mars 1960A.

As the table above shows, the voyage was unsuccessful. The spacecraft made it 120 km into the air, but its third-stage pumps didn’t generate enough momentum for it to stay in Earth’s orbit.

For the next few years, several more unsuccessful Mars missions were attempted by the USSR and then NASA. Then, in 1964, history was made when NASA launched the Mariner 4 and completed the first-ever successful trip to Mars.

The Mariner 4 didn’t actually land on the planet, but the spacecraft flew by Mars and was able to capture photos, which gave us an up-close glimpse at the planet’s rocky surface.

Then on July 20, 1976, NASA made history again when its spacecraft called Viking 1 touched down on Mars’ surface, making it the first space agency to complete a successful Mars landing. Viking 1 captured panoramic images of the planet’s terrain, and also enabled scientists to monitor the planet’s weather.

Vacation to Mars, Anyone?

To date, all Mars landings have been done without crews, but NASA is planning to send humans to Mars by the late 2030s.

And it’s not just government agencies that are planning missions to Mars—a number of private companies are getting involved, too. Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX has a long-term plan to build an entire city on Mars.

Two other aerospace startups, Impulse and Relativity, also announced an unmanned joint mission to Mars in July 2022, with hopes it could be ready as soon as 2024.

As more players are added to the mix, the pressure is on to be the first company or agency to truly make it to Mars. If (or when) we reach that point, what’s next is anyone’s guess.

The post Every Mission to Mars in One Visualization appeared first on Visual Capitalist.

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