Mission Type: Orbiter
Launch Vehicle: Titan III (CT-4)
Launch Site: ESMC / launch complex 40
Spacecraft Mass: 2,573 kg
1) imaging system
2) thermal emission spectrometer
3) pressure modulator infrared radiometer
4) laser altimeter
5) magnetometer/electron reflectometer
6) gamma-ray spectrometer
7) radio science experiment
8) Mars balloon relay receiver
Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, by Asif A. Siddiqi, NASA Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24
NASA's HEASARC Observatories, http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/heasarc/missions/marsobs.html
Mars Observer was designed to carry out a high-resolution photography mission of the Red Planet over the course of a Martian year (687 days) from a 378 x 350-km polar orbit. Mars Observer carried a suite of instruments to investigate Martian geology, atmosphere and climate in order to fill in gaps in our knowledge of planetary evolution. A mere 31 minutes after launch, the new Transfer Orbit Stage (TOS) fired to boost the spacecraft on an encounter trajectory with Mars.
After a 725-million-km voyage lasting eleven months, just two days prior to planned entry into Mars orbit, the spacecraft suddenly fell silent at 01:00 UT on 22 August 1993.
Despite vigorous efforts to regain contact, Mars Observer remained quiet. When the spacecraft did not reestablish command as a result of a stored program that was designed to do so in case of five days of silence, mission planners finally gave up hope on salvaging the mission. The results of a five-month investigation proved to be inconclusive, but one likely cause of the catastrophic failure may have been a fuel line rupture that could have damaged the spacecraft's electronics, throwing the vehicle into a spin.
Before contact with the spacecraft was lost, approximately two months of total data from the gamma ray spectrometer was successfully collected, including spectral observations of one burst.
Editor's Note: This mission profile was adapted from an originally published mission profile in Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, by Asif A. Siddiqi, NASA Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24.