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Mars 2

Mars 2 (m-71)
Mars 3 Orbiter and Lander (visible at top)
Operator URSS okb-1
Mission type Orbiter and lander
Launch date 19 May 1971 16:22:44 UTC
Launch vehicle Proton K with Blok D
Mission duration 22 August 1972
Orbital insertion date 27 November 1971
Orbits 362
Orbital decay unknown
COSPAR ID 1971-045A
Mass 2,265 kg (4,993 lb)
Orbital elements
Eccentricity .71178
Inclination 48.9°
Apoapsis 24,940 km (15,500 mi)
Periapsis 1,380 km (860 mi)
Orbital period 17.96 h

The Mars 2 was an unmanned space probe of the Mars program, a series of unmanned Mars landers and orbiters launched by the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. The Mars 2 and Mars 3 missions consisted of identical spacecraft, each with an orbiter and an attached lander. The orbiter is identical to the Venera 9 bus or orbiter. They were launched by a Proton-K heavy launch vehicle with a Blok D upper stage. The lander of Mars 2 became the first man-made object to reach the surface of Mars. On May 19, 1971, the proton-k-2 blasted from Baikonur Cosmodrome. After the first stage separated the second stage started. The third stage engine blasted Mars 2 into parking orbit then the Blok-d set Mars 2 to Mars 2 then the probe was deployed.


  • Overview 1
  • Orbiter 2
  • Lander 3
    • Lander spacecraft system 3.1
      • Prop-M Rover 3.1.1
    • Entry, descent, and crash landing 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


  • Launch Date/Time:
    • Mars 2: 19 May 1971 at 16:22:44 UTC
  • Launch mass (including fuel):
    • Combined: 4,650 kg (10,250 lb)
    • Orbiter: 3,440 kg (7,580 lb)
    • Lander: 1,210 kg (2,670 lb)
  • On-orbit dry mass: 2,265 kg (4,993 lb)
  • Dimensions: 4.1 m (13.5 ft) tall, 2 m (6.6 ft) across (5.9 m (19.4 ft) across with solar panels deployed)


The orbiter engine performed a burn to put the spacecraft into a 1380 x 24,940 km, 18-hour orbit about Mars with an inclination of 48.9 degrees. Scientific instruments were generally turned on for about 30 minutes near periapsis.

The orbiter's primary scientific objectives were to image the Martian surface and clouds, determine the temperature on Mars, study the topography, composition and physical properties of the surface, measure properties of the atmosphere, monitor the solar wind and the interplanetary and Martian magnetic fields, and act as a communications relay to send signals from the landers to the Earth.

By coincidence, a particularly large dust storm on Mars adversely affected the mission. When Mariner 9 arrived and successfully orbited Mars on 14 November 1971, just two weeks prior to Mars 2 and Mars 3, planetary scientists were surprised to find the atmosphere was thick with "a planet-wide robe of dust, the largest storm ever observed." The surface was totally obscured. Unable to reprogram the mission computers, both Mars 2 and Mars 3 dispatched their landers immediately, and the orbiters used up a significant portion of their available data resources in snapping images of the featureless dust clouds below, rather than the surface mapping intended.[1]

The Mars 2 orbiter sent back data covering the period from December 1971 to March 1972, although transmissions continued through August. It was announced that Mars 2 and Mars 3 had completed their missions by 22 August 1972, after 362 orbits. The probe, combined with Mars 3, sent back a total of 60 pictures. The images and data revealed mountains as high as 22 km, atomic hydrogen and oxygen in the upper atmosphere, surface temperatures ranging from -110 °C to +13 °C, surface pressures of 5.5 to 6 mbar (0.55 to 0.6 kPa), water vapor concentrations 5,000 times less than in the Earth's atmosphere, the base of the ionosphere starting at 80 to 110 km altitude, and grains from dust storms as high as 7 km in the atmosphere. The images and data enabled the creation of surface relief maps,[2] and gave information on Martian gravity and magnetic fields. The orbiter remains in Martian orbit.


Mars 3 Lander
Mars 2 Lander model at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics in Russia
Operator USSR
Mission type Lander
COSPAR ID 1971-045D
Mass 358 kg

Lander spacecraft system

The Mars 2 descent module was mounted on the bus/orbiter opposite the propulsion system. It consisted of a spherical 1.2 m diameter landing capsule, a 2.9 m diameter conical aerodynamic braking shield, a parachute system and retro-rockets.

The entire descent module had a fueled mass of 1210 kg, the spherical landing capsule accounting for 358 kg of this. An automatic control system consisting of gas micro-engines and pressurised nitrogen containers provided attitude control. Four "gunpowder" engines were mounted to the outer edge of the cone to control pitch and yaw.

The main and auxiliary parachutes, the engine to initiate the landing, and the radar altimeter were mounted on the top section of the lander. Foam was used to absorb shock within the descent module. The landing capsule had four triangular petals which would open after landing, righting the spacecraft and exposing the instrumentation.

The lander was equipped with two television cameras with a 360 degree view of the surface as well as a State Emblem of the Soviet Union.

Four aerials protruded from the top of the sphere to provide communications with the orbiter via an onboard radio system. The equipment was powered by batteries which were charged by the orbiter prior to separation. Temperature control was maintained through thermal insulation and a system of radiators. The landing capsule was sterilised before launch to prevent contamination of the Martian environment.

Prop-M Rover

Mars Prop-M Rover

Mars 2 lander had a small 4.5 kg Mars rover on board, which would move across the surface on skis while connected to the lander with a 15-meter umbilical. Two small metal rods were used for autonomous obstacle avoidance, as radio signals from Earth would take too long to drive the rovers using remote control. The rover carried a dynamic penetrometer and a radiation densitometer.[2]

The main PROP-M frame was a squat box with a small protrusion at the center. The frame was supported on two wide flat skis, one extending down from each side elevating the frame slightly above the surface.

The rover was planned to be placed on the surface after landing by a manipulator arm and to move in the field of view of the television cameras and stop to make measurements every 1.5 metres. The traces of movement in the Martian soil would also be recorded to determine material properties.

Because of the demise of the lander, the rover was not deployed.

Entry, descent, and crash landing

The descent module separated from the orbiter on 27 November 1971 about 4.5 hours before reaching Mars. After entering the atmosphere at approximately 6 km/s, the descent system on the module malfunctioned, possibly because the angle of entry was too steep. The descent sequence did not operate as planned and the parachute did not deploy.[2] The descent module became the first man-made object to impact the surface of Mars. The exact crash site is unknown, but it is estimated to be at .[1][3] Attempts to contact the probe after the crash were unsuccessful.

See also


  1. ^ a b Pyle, Rod (2012). Destination Mars. Prometheus Books. pp. 73–78.  
  2. ^ a b c Perminov, V.G. (July 1999). The Difficult Road to Mars - A Brief History of Mars Exploration in the Soviet Union (PDF). NASA Headquarters History Division. pp. 34–60.  
  3. ^ "Missions to Mars". The Planetary Society. 

External links

  • catalog of Soviet Mars images
  • NASA's mars probe website
  • Ted Stryk's page on enhancing the partial photo
  • TASS notice on the Mars-3 landing (in Russian) (Wikisource)
  • "The Rocky Soviet Road to Mars" by Larry Klaes - EJASA October 1989
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