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Mars 6
Mars 6 Mission to Mars

Mission Type: Lander
Launch Vehicle: Proton booster plus upper stage and escape stages, 8K82K + Blok D (Proton-K no. 281-01)
Launch Site: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), USSR, NIIP-5 / launch site 81L
Spacecraft Mass: 3,260 kg (Lander and Bus); 635 kg (Lander)
Spacecraft Instruments:
Bus: 1) magnetometer; 2) plasma traps; 3) cosmic-ray sensors; 4) micrometeoroid detectors and 5) Zhemo instrument for study of solar proton and electron fluxes
Lander: 1) thermometer; 2) barometer; 3) accelerometer; 4) radio-altimeter; 5) mass spectrometer and 6) soil analyzer
References:
Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24, by Asif A. Siddiqi

National Space Science Data Center, http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Solar System Log by Andrew Wilson, published 1987 by Jane's Publishing Co. Ltd.


Mars 6 was one of two landers launched by the Soviet Union during the 1973 launch window. The landers were very similar in design to the Mars 2 and Mars 3 landers dispatched by the Soviets in 1971, except that the spacecraft was now composed of a flyby vehicle (instead of an orbiter) and a lander.

Mars 6 completed its first midcourse correction en route to Mars on 13 August 1973. A few days later, there was a major failure in the telemetry system that transmitted scientific and operations data from the spacecraft. Only two channels remained operational, neither of which provided the ground with any data on the status of the flyby vehicle's systems.

Amazingly, the flyby spacecraft automatically performed all its functions, and on 12 March 1974, the lander successfully separated from its mother ship at a distance of 48,000 kilometers from Mars. Three hours later, it entered the Martian atmosphere. The parachute system deployed correctly at an altitude of 20 kilometers, and scientific instruments began to record data as the probe descended. Data seemed to indicate that the lander was rocking back and forth under its parachute far more vigorously than expected. Moments before expected landing, Earth lost contact with the probe.

The last confirmed data was information on ignition of the soft-landing engines at 08:58:20 UT. The probe landed at 09:11 UT at 23°54' south latitude and 19°25' west longitude. Later investigation never conclusively identified a single cause of loss of contact. Probable reasons included failure of the radio system or landing in a geographically rough area. All data from the Mars 6 lander was transmitted via the Mars 6 flyby bus, which also collected scientific information during its short flyby.


Key Dates
5 Aug 1973:  Launch
12 Mar 1974:  Lander Descent to Martian Surface
Status: Unsuccessful
Fast Facts
Mars 6 Facts Mars 6 returned the first data from the Martian atmosphere, though most of it was unreadable.

Data on the Mars atmosphere prompted redesign of an American Viking spacecraft instrument. The data was later found to be incorrect.

Mars 6 may have landed safely, but contact was lost before confirmation.
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Last Updated: 30 Nov 2010