Launch Date October 10, 1960
Launch Site Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Russia
Destination Mars
Type Flyby
Status Unsuccessful
Nation USSR
Alternate Names Marsnik 1, Korabl 4, Mars 1960A


This small probe was designed to fly past Mars and study radiation and the ultraviolet spectrum in interplanetary space. Instruments to photograph and search for signs of organic life on Mars were removed shortly before launch due to weight constraints.


None. Vibrations caused a guidance system malfunction and the spacecraft burned up in Earth's atmosphere.

In Depth

This was the first of two Soviet Mars spacecraft intended to fly past Mars. It also was the first attempt by humans to send spacecraft to the vicinity of Mars. Although the spacecraft initially included a TV imaging system and a spectroreflectometer (to detect organic life on Mars), mass constraints forced engineers to remove both instruments a week before launch.

The mission profile called for the probe to first enter Earth orbit and then use a new fourth stage (called "Blok L") to gain enough additional velocity to fly to a Mars encounter. During the launch, violent vibrations caused a gyroscope to malfunction. As a result, the booster began to veer from its planned attitude. The guidance system failed at T+309 seconds, and the third-stage engine was shut down after the trajectory deviated to a pitch of greater than seven degrees.

The payload eventually burned up in Earth's atmosphere over eastern Siberia without reaching Earth orbit.

The Mars flyby was planned for May 13, 1961.


Launch Vehicle: Modified SS-6 (Sapwood), 8K78 (no. L1-4M)

Spacecraft Mass: 1,058 pounds (480 kilograms)

Spacecraft Instruments:

  1. Ultraviolet Spectrograph
  2. Radiation Detector
  3. Cosmic-Ray Detector


Selected References

Siddiqi, Asif A. Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24. NASA, 2002.

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