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发布:2012-08-31 11:54:07


Mars is a hard place to reach. While there have been many notable success stories in getting probes to the Red Planet, the historical record is full of bad news.
Counting all Soviet/Russian, U.S., European, and Japanese attempts, more than half of Mars missions have failed, either because of some botched rocket launch on Earth or a systems malfunction en route to or at the planet. The success rate for actually landing on the Martian surface is even worse, roughly 30 percent.
Set to touch down on Aug. 5, NASA’s newest Mars rover, Curiosity, will be the largest man-made object ever placed on another planet, requiring a never-before-attempted landing sequence. With its carefully orchestrated parachutes, rockets, hovering UFO-like platform, and sky crane, the descent has to go off in a pitch perfect order to avoid the rover becoming a fiery crater on the Martian surface.
With this in mind, NASA officials have been nervous about their $2.5 billion flagship probe’s chances of successfully reaching the ground, alternating between anxious and hopeful tenors when talking about the mission in recent weeks. The agency at least can take comfort in the fact that three out of four landers and every rover built in the good-old U.S. has made it down safely thus far.
Though we sincerely hope that Curiosity doesn’t join them, here we take a look at the challenging history of Mars mission failures and the vast robotic graveyard of probes that didn’t make it.
Image: The surface and atmosphere of Mars taken by the Viking Orbiter. NASA

Marsnik 1 and 2
Marsnik 1号 及 Marsnik 2号
The earliest planned Mars missions were the Soviet Mars 1M series of spacecrafts, known in the U.S. as Marsnik 1 and 2. Both probes were meant to fly by Mars and return images of its surface as well as study the effects of extended spaceflight on electronics to pave the way for future interplanetary travel.
最早的火星探测器出自苏联,属于火星1M系列宇宙飞船,在美国,Marsnik 1号 及 Marsnik 2号几乎妇孺皆知。这两次探测可以说意义重大,不仅意味着人类要探索火星,还成功拍摄到了了火星地表图片,拓展了电子产品在外太空航空领域内的应用,为未来星际旅行奠定了基础。
Marsnik 1 was launched on Oct. 10, 1960 but failed to get enough thrust to make it out of Earth’s atmosphere. This early attempt, undertaken behind the secrecy of the Soviet space program, has been denied by some scientists involved with the flight. It’s a strange face-saving effort considering that Marsnik 2, launched four days after Marsnik 1, suffered the same failure to achieve Earth orbit as its predecessor.
1960年10月10日,Marsnik 1号首次发射,由于动力不足,未能冲破地球大气层。这些早期尝试,属于苏维埃太空项目中的保密项目,参与其中的科学家拒绝谈及此事。当然,一想到,4天后发射的Marsnik 2号重蹈覆辙,依然未能冲破地球轨道大气层,这种结果也表明了这种做法的确有助于保全面子。
Image: The Marsnik 1 spacecraft. NASA
图片:美国宇航局的Marsnik 1号航天飞行器

Mars 1
Two years after their first tries, the Soviets were at it again with a suite of three robot attempts at Mars. On Oct. 24, 1962, they launched Sputnik 22, a Mars flyby mission that exploded in Earth orbit before it was able to fire its rockets to head to the Red Planet. This satellite would be of little historical note if it hadn’t almost triggered World War III. The poorly timed launch occurred during the Cuban missile crisis and, when the U.S. Ballistic Missile Early Warning System radar detected debris from the shattered spacecraft, it was momentarily feared to be the start of a Soviet nuclear missile attack.
首次尝试失败,两年后,苏维埃又研制了3个航空设备,想要再次登陆火星。1962年10月24日,“斯普特尼号 22”发射,将执行在火星上低空飞行的任务,到达地球轨道指定位置,准备再次点火,向火星发射时,意外爆炸。这次事件几乎引发第3次世界大战,才令这次事件备受瞩目。一方面,由于发射时间恰巧就是“古巴导弹危机”爆发期间,另一方面,由于国际局势吃紧,“美国弹道导弹防御系统”的雷达探测到该宇航器碎片,并误以为是苏维埃政府的核导弹袭击等原因。。
Seemingly undeterred by their failures, the Soviet space program launched the Mars 1 probe eight days later. This probe was designed to image the Martian surface and send back data on cosmic radiation, micrometeoroid impacts, Mars’ magnetic field, and search for possible life. Despite a leak in one of the gas valves in the orientation system, Mars 1 started out in good working condition, achieving Earth orbit and rocketing off to Mars. But a few months later, the spacecraft ceased communicating, possibly from failure of the orientation system.
屡屡失败的苏维埃航空计划部,8天后又发射了“火星1号”。该探测器将绘制火星地表图,并传输火星上的宇宙辐射强度数据,微流星体冲击情况,及磁场等方面数据,并搜索火星上的生命迹象。虽然定位系统一个气阀些许泄露,但“火星1号”还是完美升空,顺利到达地球轨道,并成功发射到火星。数月之后,该航天器通信故障,失去联系,据推测是由于 定位系统失灵造成。
The last Soviet attempt of this era, Sputnik 24, launched three days after Mars 1. It would have deployed the first lander to reach the surface of Mars. Unfortunately, the probe broke up in Earth orbit shortly after launch and reentered the atmosphere in pieces a few months later.
Image: The Soviet Mars 1. NASA

Mariner 3
While the Soviets seemingly had a monopoly on Mars spacecraft failures during this time, at least they were trying. NASA wasn’t even in the game yet — the first American attempt at a Mars flyby didn’t come until 1964, with the launch of Mariner 3. And this attempt failed when a protective shield didn’t eject properly. The extra weight prevented the spacecraft from reaching its intended orbit. NASA’s Mariner 4, launched a few weeks later, was the first probe to successfully fly by Mars, finally returning pictures of its surface from close up.
Image: The Mariner 3 spacecraft. NASA

Zond 2
Zond 2号
Days after the launch of the successful Mariner 4, the Soviet space program launched a rival probe, Zond 2. Much like the earlier Mars 1, this probe was intended to carry out scientific exploration of the Red Planet, take pictures of its surface, and brought with it a descent craft to reach the Martian surface. (Soviet probes at this time were all designed basically the same, with engineers learning from the mistakes of previous spacecraft.)
“水手4号”发射成功,数日之后,苏维埃宇航局发射了“Zond 2号”人造探测卫星。和“火星1号”类似,该探测器将执行科学考察任务,拍摄火星地表图片,在降落装置协助下,成功在火星表面登陆。(当时苏联的探测器的设计基本雷同,都是工程师不断失败,不断积累而形成的设计。)
Though its launch went smoothly, Zond 2 reported serious problems from the beginning of its mission. Out in space, one of its solar panels seems not to have deployed, giving the probe only half the expected amount of power. Several months later, the spacecraft’s communication system began sending back irregular updates, eventually succumbing to a critical failure somewhere on the way to Mars.
发射过程十分顺利,但“Zond 2号”在任务开始之时,就存在严重错误。到太空后,一块太阳能电池板无法展开,造成该飞行器仅拥有原计划能量的一半。数月后,通信系统不发送数据,显示更新出错,最终造成致命错误,该飞行器在飞往火星的途中迷路了。
To this day, no one knows exactly what happened to the probe but its believed that Zond 2 went by Mars on August 6, 1965 – just a few weeks after Mariner 4’s successful flyby — and drifted silently off into interplanetary space.
直至今日,无人知晓该飞行器何去何从,可以确信的是,1965年8月6日,的确发射了“Zond 2号”探测器,就是“水手4号”成功抵达火星的数周之后,只是结局不太一样,悄无声息地消失在茫茫宇宙之中。
Image: Zond 2. NASA
图片:美国宇航局Zond 2号

Twin Failures
The Soviets rounded out the 1960s with a pair of twin Mars probes that failed spectacularly shortly after launch. Launched in 1969, the Mars 1969A and 1969B probes each carried three television cameras designed to record the Martian surface in detail that surpassed Mariner 4.
Both rockets experienced terrible launches. The first spacecraft, 1969A, lifted off the launch pad, experienced a malfunction, caught on fire, shut down its engines, exploded, and had its remains crash into the Altai Mountains. The second probe suffered a rocket stage explosion 0.02 seconds after liftoff, which caused the rocket to tip over as it climbed. About half a mile above the surface, all the engines shut down, and the rocket hit the ground and exploded 41 seconds after launch, less than 2 miles from the launch pad.
Image: Rockets similar to this Proton carried the Mars 1969A and 1969B probes and both suffered failures. NASA

Mariner 8 and Cosmos 419
By the 1970s, Martian flybys were passé and both the U.S. and Soviet space agencies were racing to be the first to orbit a probe around Mars. NASA was first out of the gate with the Mariner 8 probe, which launched May 8, 1971. Unfortunately, the probe’s rocket began to wobble after liftoff, eventually tumbling out of control and returning to Earth.
Two days later, the Soviet Cosmos 419 probe launched. Though its NASA rival crashed, many believe that part of Cosmos’ mission was to overtake the U.S. spacecraft during the voyage to Mars and enter orbit around the planet first. The Soviets may have gotten a quick laugh at their American counterparts. But an erroneous ignition timer in Earth orbit sent the Soviet spacecraft quickly plummeting back to the ground.
Image: Mariner 8. NASA

Mars 2 and 3
Mere weeks after the back-to-back Mariner 8 and Cosmos 419 failures, both the U.S. and Russia were attempting to achieve Martian orbit again. On May 19 and 28, 1971, the Soviets launched the Mars 2 and 3 probes. Two days later, NASA’s Mariner 9 spacecraft launched.
The three probes raced to Mars, each hoping to bring glory to their country’s space program and engineering prowess. While it launched slightly later, the U.S. probe beat the Soviet spacecraft by a mere fortnight and Mariner 9 became the first man-made object to ever orbit another planet. During its mission, Mariner 9 mapped 70 percent of the Martian surface and studied changes in the planet’s atmosphere.
Though slightly late, Mars 2 and 3 also entered Martian orbit. Each spacecraft imaged the Martian surface and clouds, and studied the planet’s temperature, pressure, and composition. Mars 2, which arrived slightly before its companion, has the distinction of sending the first attempted lander to the surface of Mars.
This dome-shaped landing robot contained two cameras to provide a 360-degree view of its landing area, and a mechanical scoop to search for organic matter and signs of life. It was meant to slow down using parachutes and rockets and make the first soft landing on Mars. Once on the ground, four triangular petals that opened like a flower were meant to right the probe. Perched atop the dome was a small black rover (left) that “walked” on two skis, and could travel about 50 feet away from its base while remaining connected via a communication cable.

The orbiters were both a success, but their landers did not fare as well. The Mars 2’s descent landing sequence failed, bringing the probe in too fast. The lander exploded when it hit the surface. Mars 3’s lander actually made it to the ground, achieving the first touchdown on another planet and sending back an image from the surface of Mars, a blurry and static-filled shot. Inexplicably, the lander stopped transmitting about 20 seconds after it hit the ground, never resuming transmission. The failure may have been related to an extremely powerful and unfortunate Martian dust storm taking place at the time, which could have damaged its communications system.
Images: 1) The Mars 2 lander. 2) The Mars 2 rover. NASA via Alexander Chernov and the Virtual Space Museum.

Mars 4, 5, 6, and 7
Between July 21 and August 9, 1973, the Soviets launched what basically amounts to an armada at Mars. Four spacecraft lifted off, one after the other in close succession. Unfortunately, not a single one was entirely successful.
Mars 4 (above) launched fine and was safely on its way to Mars when a computer chip malfunction prevented a necessary rocket from firing. Subsequently, the probe was going way too fast when it reached Mars, bypassing the planet entirely and drifting off into interplanetary space. Its companion, Mars 5, fared better, entering Martian orbit but then operating for only a few days before shutting down.
Mars 6 and 7 were each flyby missions that deployed a lander as they approached Mars. Mars 6 successfully released its descent probe, which traveled down to the surface but then crashed, likely from a misfired rocket. It did transmit a few minutes of data on its way down — the first information returned from the atmosphere of Mars. But the mission was a comedy of errors, and much of the data were unreadable because a computer chip error degraded the records during the probe’s journey to Mars. The Mars 7 spacecraft fared much worse, missing the planet entirely due to an on-board malfunction.
Image: The Soviet Mars 4 probe. NASA

Phobos 1 and 2
Just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country’s space agency sent out two more ambitious Mars probes, Phobos 1 and 2. The Cold War was nearly thawed and the missions relied on the help of 14 other nations, including the U.S.
Both probes were designed to study one of Mars’ moons, Phobos, and release a lander to the tiny body’s surface. Phobos 1 worked fine until a communication failure, ultimately traced back to a software error that caused the solar panels to face away from the sun, depleting the spacecraft’s batteries. The lesson for programmers is: always check your code!
Phobos 2 was slightly more successful, entering orbit around Mars and returning some data. But before the spacecraft could release its lander to the moon Phobos, it too suffered a communication failure, ending the mission.
Image: Phobos spacecraft with the moon and Mars nearby. NASA

Mars Observer
NASA’s Mars Observer was meant to study the climate and geology of Mars from space. The $813 million robot launched in 1992 and cruised its way to Mars.
Though no one is sure exactly what happened, the probe never came through. Engineers suspect that a fuel line ruptured and caused the spacecraft to spin uncontrollably in interplanetary space. The probe lost contact with mission control three days before it was meant to enter Martian orbit.
Image: NASA

Mars 96
The first Mars probe in the post-Soviet Russian era, Mars 96 was an ambitious spacecraft and the heaviest probe launched up to that point. With instruments from several countries, including the European Union and the U.S., the bloated spacecraft carried an orbiter, two landers to explore the surface, and two penetrators that would have hit and delved about 17 feet into the ground, analyzing the Martian underground for the first time.
The mission launched in November 1996 but failed to make it to Earth orbit. The spacecraft was a dramatic disaster, crashing back to Earth and breaking up in a 200-mile stretch over the Pacific Ocean, Chile, and Bolivia. Though it was initially believed that most of the spacecraft burned up in the atmosphere, later assessments suggested that pieces of the probe hit the ground, possibly including its 200-gram plutonium fuel tank. No part of the spacecraft or upper stage has been recovered to this day.
Image: A model of the Mars 96 probe. NASA

The Japanese space agency (JAXA) has one entry in this field with its Nozomi spacecraft. Nozomi (meaning hope) was meant to study the upper Martian atmosphere and its interaction with the solar wind. Launched in 1998, the probe took a long, circuitous route, using the Earth and moon several times as gravity assists to save on fuel.
In April 2002, as Nozomi was approaching Earth for the gravity assist maneuver, powerful solar flares damaged the spacecraft’s on-board communications and power systems. Though the spacecraft flew by Mars the next year, engineers were no longer able to properly control the spacecraft. It was unable to complete its mission and enter Martian orbit and was abandoned that year.
Image: NASA

Mars Climate Orbiter and Polar Lander
Proving that even NASA engineers can have problems with math, one of the most well-known and embarrassing failures in space history came in 1998. The Mars Climate Orbiter was meant to study Martian dust storms, weather systems, clouds, surface features, and erosion. When the spacecraft reached Mars, it completed a burn to enter into orbit around the planet. When the probe went behind Mars, it briefly lost radio contact with mission control. For some reason, it never reestablished the connection.
Engineers later determined that the spacecraft had encountered a navigation error stemming from a few commands being sent in English units instead of getting converted to metric. Rather than entering Martian orbit 90 miles above the surface, the probe plunged straight into the atmosphere, where it burned up due to friction.
The other half of the mission, NASA’s Mars Polar Lander, which was meant to descend to the ground near the planet’s South Pole, also suffered a failure. Before reaching the surface, the lander ceased communicating with Earth. Though officials aren’t sure of the exact cause, it is likely that one of the probe’s rockets stopped firing too early, causing the lander to slam into the surface at high velocity.

Beagle 2
The British Beagle 2 lander was named after Charles Darwin's famous ship and was planned to study the transition between the Martian ancient southern highlands and northern plains. The small probe carried stereo cameras, a microscope, and a small drill, and would have searched for signs of life, past or present.
After its scheduled landing, ESA attempted to hail the Beagle 2 lander but heard nothing. Mission control kept trying to call the Beagle for a month after its descent, to no avail. No known cause has been determined for the failure, though electronic glitches, a gasbag puncture, damage to a heat shield, a broken communications antenna, and collision with an unforeseen object could all be possible explanations.
Image: NASA

The most recent failure to reach Mars was the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission. Launched in 2011, the spacecraft was headed to Mars’ moon Phobos to return a sample from the body’s surface to scientists on Earth. It carried the first Chinese probe to go to the Red Planet as well as a small experiment set up by the Planetary Society to carry live organisms through interplanetary space and see how they fared.
After launching, Phobos-Grunt experienced an unknown malfunction in Earth orbit. It drifted there for a while, watched by telescopes all over the planet. Russian and European attempts to communicate with the probe were unsuccessful. The spacecraft eventually fell back to Earth on Jan. 15, over the Pacific west of Chile.
发射后, 福保斯-格朗特(Phobos-Grunt)到达地球轨道指定位置后,未知错误。在地球轨道悬浮片刻,被全球卫星望远镜捕捉到其漂浮时的情况。俄国及欧洲的工程师试图与该卫星通信,无果而终。1月15日,坠向地球表面,就在智力西侧的太平洋附近。
Image: Roscosmos/IKI


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