The Mars Polar Lander was launched on January 3, 1999. The probe was supposed to collect samples of Marsí soil using its 6.5- foot robotic arm and analyze the soil to see whether it contained any water. It was also supposed to take pictures of the landing site and send sounds from Mars back to Earth.
The Landing Site
The Mars Polar Lander would enter the atmosphere at a speed of 15,700 mph, and friction would begin to slow the capsule down. As it fell to the ground, it was going to take 10 pictures of the landing site so space engineers could send probes more safely in the future. The Mars Polar Lander would hit the ground at a speed of 2.2 mph.
Goals of Mars Polar Lander
The goals for the Mars Polar Lander were:
The most important goal of the Mars Polar Lander was to study water on the planet to see if enough water is available for life to exist and how it affects the weather and climate on the planet.
Mars Polar Lander Experiments
Some scientists believe liquid water and life may have existed at one point in time on Mars. Some even believe Mars had an enormous ocean billions of years ago. The Mars Polar Lander carried a microphone hoping to be the first to record the sounds of Mars. The mission also hoped to look underground. Two microprobes were to slam into the planets surface at over 400 mph and turn about 4 feet into the icy Martian ground. They hoped to look for water ice below the surface using microprobes (tubes that they would stick into the ground), and then radio their findings to the orbiting spacecraft, which would send them to Earth.
On December 3, 1999 the Mars Polar Lander malfunctioned as it entered Marsí atmosphere. NASA lost contact with the Mars Polar Lander and doesnít know what happened to it. It may have crashed into the planet or tipped over somehow when it landed. NASA says they may never know what happened to the Lander or where it is.
Unless otherwise noted, all images courtesy of NASA. Permission for use at http://www.nasa.gov/gallery/photo/guideline.html.
This site works best on a PC using Internet Explorer. There are some minor problems using Netscape, especially on Apples, but they can't be fixed. Sorry!