Mars Observer

past Mission




Sept. 25, 1992




Take high-resolution photos of Mars

After a 17-year gap since its last mission to the Red Planet, the United States launched Mars Observer on Sept. 25, 1992. The spacecraft was based on a commercial Earth-orbiting communications satellite that had been converted into an orbiter for Mars. The payload of science instruments was designed to study the geology, geophysics, and climate of Mars. The mission ended with disappointment on Aug. 22, 1993, when contact was lost with the spacecraft shortly before it was to enter orbit around Mars. Science instruments from Mars Observer were reflown on two other orbiters, Mars Global Surveyor and 2001 Mars Odyssey.

Artist's image of a spacecraft in orbit over Mars
An illustration of NASA's Mars Observer spacecraft.
Credit: NASA
Mars Observer
Mission Type
Spacecraft Mass
2,244 pounds (1,018 kilograms)
Launch Vehicle
Titan III (CT-4)
Launch Site
Cape Canaveral, Florida / Space Launch Complex-40
Scientific Instruments
1. Mars Observer Camera (MOC)
2. Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES)
3. Pressure Modulator Infrared Radiometer (PMIRR)
4. Mars Observer Laser Altimeter (MOLA)
5. Magnetometer/Electron Reflectometer (MAG/ER)
6. Gamma Ray Spectrometer (GRS)
7. Radio Science Experiment (RS)
8. Mars Balloon Relay Receiver (MBR)

Key Dates

Launch Date: Sept. 25, 1992 

End of Mission: Aug. 22, 1993, communication lost prior to orbit insertion

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