List of Mars orbiters

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Artist's rendering of NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiting Mars

The following table is a list of Mars orbiters, consisting of space probes which were launched from Earth and are currently orbiting Mars. As of December 2016, there are fourteen known artificial satellites in Mars' orbit, six of which are active.[1]


20th century[edit]

Soviet stamp endorsing Mars 2

The Soviets' Mars program and NASA's Mariner program became the two first successful space programs that intended to explore Mars through orbiters. Mars 2, Mars 3 and Mariner 9 were all launched into space in May 1971, and all entered Mars’ orbit that same year. NASA's Mariner 9 reached the planet's orbit first on November 14, narrowly beating the Soviet's spacecraft amid the space race, and subsequently became the first spacecraft to orbit another planet.[2]

Contact with all eight Mars orbiters launched during the 20th century has been lost. NASA's four spacecraft are conjectured to remain in Mars' orbit. Mariner 9, Viking 1 and Viking 2 are expected to lower down into the Martian atmosphere by 2022 and either burn up or crash into the planet's surface.[3] Mars Global Surveyor is expected to crash onto the surface of the planet by 2047. The fate of the Soviet's three Mars program orbiters and Phobos 2 remains unclear, but they are still presumed to be in orbit.[4]

21st century[edit]

Artist's rendition of Mars Express as seen by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor

2001 Mars Odyssey was launched April 7, 2001 on a Delta II rocket and currently holds the record for the longest-surviving continually active spacecraft in orbit around a planet other than Earth at 15 years, 4 months and 27 days.[5]

In 2003, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched their first planetary mission with Mars Express to conduct reconnaissance and exploration of Mars from orbit.[6] On 12 August 2005, NASA launched Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). As MRO entered orbit in 2006, it joined three other active spacecraft which were in Mars' orbit: Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), Mars Express, and 2001 Mars Odyssey; at the time, this set a record for the most operational spacecraft in the immediate vicinity of Mars. MGS has since ceased to function.

On September 24, 2014, Mangalyaan, launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation, reached Mars orbit. ISRO launched the orbiter on November 5, 2013 as a "technology demonstrator" project. Its secondary goal is to analyze the Martian atmosphere and topography. The mission is the first successful Asian interplanetary mission.[7] Ten days after ISRO's launch, NASA launched their seventh Mars orbiter MAVEN to study the Martian atmosphere. Its goals include determining how the planet's atmosphere and water, presumed to have once been substantial, were lost over time.[8]


Loss of contact

Table of objects[edit]

Artificial object Agency Launch date Entered orbit Days active Image
2Mars 2 Soviet Union Lavochkin 19 May 1971 27 November 1971 269 days Mars3 iki.jpg
2Mars 3 Soviet Union Lavochkin 28 May 1971 2 December 1971 264 days Mars3 iki.jpg
2Mariner 9 United States NASA 30 May 1971 14 November 1971 348 days Mariner09.jpg
2Mars 5 Soviet Union Lavochkin 25 July 1973 12 February 1974 16 days Mars3 iki.jpg
2Viking 1 United States NASA 20 August 1975 19 June 1976 1,520 days Viking spacecraft.jpg
2Viking 2 United States NASA 9 September 1975 7 August 1976 717 days Viking spacecraft.jpg
2Phobos 2 Soviet Union IKI 12 July 1988 29 January 1989 57 days Phobos Marte.jpg
2Mars Global Surveyor United States NASA 7 November 1996 12 September 1997 3,338 days Mars global surveyor.jpg
32001 Mars Odyssey United States NASA 7 April 2001 24 October 2001 5,629 days 2001 mars odyssey wizja.jpg
3Mars Express European Space Agency ESA 2 June 2003 25 December 2003 4,837 days Mars-express-volcanoes-sm.jpg
3Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter United States NASA 12 August 2005 10 March 2006 4,031 days Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.jpg
3 Mangalyaan India ISRO 5 November 2013 24 September 2014 911 days Mars Orbiter Mission - India - ArtistsConcept.jpg
3MAVEN United States NASA 18 November 2013 22 September 2014 913 days Mars-MAVEN-Orbiter-20140921.jpg
3 ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter European Space Agency ESA
Roscosmos logo ru.svg Roscosmos
14 March 2016 19 October 2016 155 days ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.jpg

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mariner 9: Details". National Space Science Data Center. Retrieved December 28, 2011. 
  2. ^ Pyle, Rod (2012). Destination Mars. Prometheus Books. pp. 73–78. ISBN 978-1-61614-589-7. It was the first spacecraft to enter orbit around another world. ... [It] continues to orbit Mars to this day, sailing around the planet deaf and dumb in the cold darkness. 
  3. ^ NASA - This Month in NASA History: Mariner 9, November 29, 2011 — Vol. 4, Issue 9 Archived May 14, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Dunn, Marcia (October 27, 1996). "NASA Takes No Dirty Chances With Mars Rover". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-08-03. It's expected to orbit Mars for at least 50 years before crashing onto the surface of the planet. 
  5. ^ "NASA's Odyssey Spacecraft Sets Exploration Record on Mars". Press Releases. JPL, NASA. 2010-12-15. Archived from the original on 2011-04-25. 
  6. ^ ESA - Mars Express - Mars Express Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  7. ^ "ISRO: Mars Orbiter Mission". 
  8. ^ Brown, Dwayne; Neal-Jones, Nancy; Zubritsky, Elizabeth (September 21, 2014). "NASA's Newest Mars Mission Spacecraft Enters Orbit around Red Planet". NASA. Retrieved September 22, 2014.