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Mars 8/Mars 96
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Mars 8/Mars 96
Mars 8/Mars 96 Mission to Mars

Mission Type: Orbiter
Launch Vehicle: 8K82K + Blok D-2 (Proton-K no. 392-02)
Launch Site: GIIK-5 / launch site 200L
Spacecraft Mass: 6,200 kg
Spacecraft Instruments:
1) ASPERA-C energy-mass experiment
2) FONEMA omni non-scanning energy-mass ion analyzer
3) DYMIO omni ionosphere energy mass spectrometer
4) MARIPROB ionosphere plasma spectrometers
5) MAREMF electron analyzer/magnetometer
6) ELISMA wave complex experiment
7) SLED-2 low-energy charged-particle spectrometer
8) PGS precision gamma spectrometer
9) LILAS-2 cosmic and solar gammaburst spectrometer
10) EVRIS stellar oscillations photometer
11) RADIUS-MD dosimeter
12) MORION-S science data acquisition instrument
13) ARGUS imaging system
14) TERMOSCAN mapping radiometer
15) SVET mapping spectrometer
16) SPICAM multichannel spectrometer
17) UVS-M ultraviolet spectrometer
18) LWR longwave radar
19) NEUTRON-S neutron spectrometer
20) PFS infrared Fourier spectrometer
21) PHOTON gamma spectrometer
22) MAK quadruple mass spectrometer
Small autonomous stations (each):
1) MIS meteorology instrument system
2) DPI three-component accelerometer
3) APX alpha-particle proton and X-ray spectrometer
4) OPTIMIZM seismometer/magnetometer/inclinometer
5) PanCam panoramic camera
6) DesCam descent phase camera
Penetrators (each):
1) TV camera
2) MECOM meteorological unit
3) PEGAS gamma-ray spectrometer
4) ANGSTREM x-ray spectrometer
5) ALPHA alpha/proton spectrometer
6) NEUTRON-P neutron spectrometer
7) GRUNT accelerometers
8) TERMOZOND temperature probes
9) Kamerton seismometer
10) IMAP-6 magnetometer
Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, by Asif A. Siddiqi, NASA Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24

Mars 8, the only Soviet/Russian lunar or planetary probe in twelve years (1988 to 2000), was an ambitious mission to investigate the evolution of the Martian atmosphere, its surface, and its interior.

The entire spacecraft comprised an orbiter, two small autonomous stations, and two independent penetrators. The three-axis stabilized orbiter carried two platforms for pointing several optical instruments for studying the Martian surface and atmosphere.

After an initial period in low orbit lasting three to four weeks acting as a relay to the landers, the orbiter would have spent approximately two Earth years in a 250 x 18,000-kilometer orbit mapping Mars. The orbiter would have released the two small autonomous stations four to five days before entering orbit.

The small stations would have landed on the Martian surface, cushioned by an inflatable shell that was to split open after landing. The stations were to have transmitted data daily (initially) and then every three days for about 20 minutes each session. The stations would have studied soil characteristics and taken photos on the surface.

The two 75-kilogram (each) penetrators, meanwhile, would have impacted the Martian surface at a speed of 76 meters per second to reach about 6 to 8 meters in depth. The orbiter would have released them after entering Martian orbit (between seven and twenty-eight days after entering orbit). During the mission's one-year lifetime, the penetrators would have served as nodes of a seismic network.

The Proton-K launch vehicle successfully delivered the payload to Earth orbit (after the first firing of the Blok D-2 upper stage). At that point, the Blok D-2 was to fire once again to place Mars 8 into an elliptical orbit, after which the Fregat propulsion module would have sent the spacecraft on a Martian encounter trajectory. The Blok D-2 engine, however, shut down prematurely after only 20 seconds as a result of a command from the payload, thus putting its precious payload into an incorrect orbit of 145.7 x 171.1 kilometers.

Mars 8 and its Fregat module then automatically separated from the Blok D-2. The latter seems to have fired (as planned earlier), placing Mars 8 in an 87 x 1,500-kilometer orbit that deposited the planetary probe in Earth's atmosphere.

Reports at the time suggested that debris from Mars 8 may have fallen in Chile or Bolivia, contaminating areas with its plutonium power source. Mars 8 was scheduled to arrive in Mars orbit on 23 September 1997.

Key Dates
16 Nov 1996:  Launch (20:48:53 UT)
Status: Unsuccessful
Fast Facts
Mars 8/Mars 96 Facts A malfunction during booster firing to send it to Mars marooned the spacecraft in Earth orbit. It re-entered Earth's atmosphere after three orbits.

At 6,200 kg, Mars 8 was the heaviest interplanetary probe and the most ambitious Mars mission of its time.

Instruments were developed in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Finland, France, Hungary, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United States and the ESA.
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Last Updated: 6 Dec 2010