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Mars Climate Orbiter

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The Mars Climate Orbiter mission was the first half of the Mars Polar Lander mission. The two missions were to study the Martian weather, climate, and water and carbon dioxide budget, in order to understand the reservoirs, behavior, and atmospheric role of volatiles and to search for evidence of long-term and episodic climate changes. The Mars Climate Orbiter was destroyed when a navigation error caused it to miss its target altiude at Mars by 80 to 90 km, instead entering the martian atmosphere at an altitude of 57 km during the orbit insertion manuever. This may have contributed to the loss of the Mars Polar Lander which was relying on this spacecraft for communications relays to Earth.

Mission Timeline

  • Dec 11, 1998 - Launch
  • Sep 23, 1999 - Arrival at Mars - contact lost


Visits since 10/99. Last Updated on December 15, 2001
Karen. Meech, Institute for Astronomy, UH
meech@ifa.hawaii.edu