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    Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

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    George1
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    Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

    Post  George1 on Thu Feb 26, 2015 9:30 am

    Mars has been a house of horrors for the Russian and Soviet space programs for the past 50 years.

    Not one of 19 Soviet and Russian missions sent to the Red Planet has been fully successful. Probes have been lost in launch accidents, blown up in Earth orbit, failed en route, and mysteriously fallen silent just as they were about to fulfill their missions. By contrast, NASA has flown 13 wholly successful missions to Mars in 18 attempts, going five for six on landing.

    The table below shows all the Soviet and Russian missions launched to Mars since 1960. Seventeen of the 18 missions were launched by the Soviet Union. The lone Russian mission was Mars 96, which never made it out of Earth orbit.

    Spacecraft Year Mission(s) Results
    1. Mars 1960A 1960 Flyby Launch failure
    2. Mars 1960B 1960 Flyby Launch failure
    3. Sputnik 22 1962 Flyby Launch failure; spacecraft exploded in Earth orbit
    4. Mars 1 1962 Flyby Some data collected, but lost contact before reaching Mars, flyby at approx. 193,000 km
    5. Sputnik 24 1962 Lander Launch failure; spacecraft failed to leave Earth's orbit
    6. Zond 2 1964 Flyby Communication lost three months before reaching Mars
    7. Mars 1969A 1969 Orbiter Launch failure
    8. Mars 1969B 1969 Orbiter Launch failure
    9. Cosmos 419 1971 Orbiter Launch failure
    10. Mars 2 1971 Orbiter, Lander, Rover Orbiter successful; lander crashed on surface of Mars
    11. Mars 3 1971 Orbiter, Lander, Rover Orbiter successful; soft landing on surface but ceased transmission within 20 seconds
    12. Mars 4 1973 Orbiter Failed to enter Mars orbit, made a close flyby
    13. Mars 5 1973 Orbiter Partial success. Entered orbit and returned data, but failed within 9 days
    14. Mars 6 1973 Lander Partial success. Data returned during descent but not after landing on Mars
    15. Mars 7 1973 Lander Landing probe separated prematurely; entered heliocentric orbit
    16. Phobos 1 1988 Orbiter, Phobos Landers Contact lost on way to Mars, landers not deployed
    17. Phobos 2 1988 Orbiter, Phobos Landers Partial success: entered orbit and returned some data. Contact lost just before deployment of landers
    18.  Mars 96 1996 Orbiter, Lander, Penetrator Launch failure; spacecraft failed to leave Earth’s orbit
    19.  Phobos-Grunt 2011 Orbiter,Phobos sample Launch failure; spacecraft failed to leave Earth’s orbit

    Nine of the 19 missions failed due to problems with their launchers, an unusually high number given Soviet expertise with that technology. But, even when spacecraft made it out of Earth orbit, they were prone to numerous failures that resulted in only a handful of partially successful missions.

    The peak of the Soviet Mars effort came with seven launches during the 1971 and 1973 launch windows. Of the four orbiters that made it to Mars, three returned useful data. None of the four landing attempts were successful. Mars 3 came the closest to success, falling silent a mere 20 seconds after touching down on the surface.

    After 1973, the Soviets put Mars exploration on hold and turned their attention to other targets. The nation completed an ongoing robotic exploration of the Moon, which ended with a sample return by Luna 24 in 1976. The Soviets also continued a highly successful series of missions to Venus and sent two probes to Halley’s Comet.

    In 1988, the Soviets were ready to try their luck at Mars again, launching the twin Phobos 1 and 2 missions to the Red Planet. The main goal was the close study of the planet’s enigmatic moon, where the spacecraft would deploy stationary landers and hoppers on the surface.

    Hopes were high–and were quickly dashed. Phobos 1 was lost during the cruise phase when a single character error in uploaded computer code commanded the spacecraft to shut down its attitude control thrusters. The spacecraft lost its lock on the Sun, and thus its ability to orient its solar panels properly. Phobos 1’s batteries depleted and the spacecraft died before controllers realized the error.

    The failure showed a lack of sophistication in the spacecraft’s control system. Phobos 1 lacked the fail-safes that are built into a comparable American spacecraft, which would have sent a query back to ground control asking, “Do you want to shut down the attitude control system?” The controller would have immediately realized the error and initiated corrective measures to prevent it.
    One might think, given their long record of failure at Mars and a dearth of recent planetary exploration missions to build upon, that they would launch a relatively small satellite with a fairly simple mission. Wrong.

    Like several other missions before it, Phobos 2 came tantalizingly close to success. It arrived safely in Martian orbit and eased ever closer to Phobos. However, just before the critical phase of the mission, during which it would have approached within 50 meters of moon and dropped the landers, the spacecraft suddenly went silent. The precise reason was unclear, but engineers later concluded that a computer failure was likely to blame.

    Less than three years after Phobos 2 failed in March 1989, the Soviet Union collapsed. The Russians corrected the flaws in the Phobos spacecraft design for a new mission called Mars 96. The mission never had a chance; the failure of its Proton rocket’s fourth stage on November 16, 1996, doomed the spacecraft to a fiery re-entry over Bolivia.

    Russia’s Mars aspirations were then put on hold again as the Russian space program struggled for survival amid the economic chaos of the 1990s.

    Fobos-Grunt or Phobos-Grunt was the last attempted Russian sample return mission to Phobos, one of the moons of Mars. Fobos-Grunt also carried the Chinese Mars orbiter Yinghuo-1 and the tiny Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment funded by the Planetary Society.

    It was launched on 9 November 2011 at 02:16 local time (8 November 2011, 20:16 UTC) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, but subsequent rocket burns intended to set the craft on a course for Mars failed, leaving it stranded in low Earth orbit. Efforts to reactivate the craft were unsuccessful, and it fell back to Earth in an uncontrolled re-entry on 15 January 2012, reportedly over the Pacific Ocean west of Chile.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    So i wonder why USSR/Russia has that extent of failure regarding spacecraft missions to Mars comparing with USA/NASA missions?

    Why on the contrary missions to Venus had the opposite results with the most missions to be successful? (even Venus environment and atmosphere conditions are much more harsh than that of Mars)


    Last edited by George1 on Fri Feb 27, 2015 4:40 pm; edited 1 time in total

    GarryB
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    Re: Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

    Post  GarryB on Fri Feb 27, 2015 5:18 am

    Perhaps their success rate will dramatically improve when they are no longer using western designed and made computer chips...

    Of course having said that focus is often directed by politics and propaganda... it was the Soviets that revealed the very first pictures of the far side of the moon... a side humanity had never seen before... they landed the first rovers on the moon, they put the first man made object in orbit of the moon...

    And as you mention their success rate with Venus is excellent... as excellent as NASAs success rate with Mars is.

    Perhaps now they are not communist they will have better success on the Red Planet...


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    victor1985
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    Re: Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

    Post  victor1985 on Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:39 pm

    Maibe the tjing is on venus wasnt suppose to land and on mars was suppose to. Seems mars dont like strangers and want efforts to approach. Venus...... eh venus is a more exotic and simply destionation. And more atractive.

    George1
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    Re: Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

    Post  George1 on Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:53 pm

    victor1985 wrote:Maibe the tjing is on venus wasnt suppose to land and on mars was suppose to.

    No, there were landers too and successful

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    Re: Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

    Post  kvs on Mon Mar 02, 2015 5:54 am

    The programmers responsible for the Phobos Grunt fiasco should be considered serious statistical outliers.
    They missed way too many obvious design features. So something smells really bad. The statistics
    of the Soviet Mars mission failures are also peculiar. It's unphysical for failures to be clustered around
    research subjects. This indicates either a work culture problem amongst the Mars spacecraft designers
    or sabotage. The number of launcher failures points to the latter since launchers are independent of the
    spacecraft.

    Sabotage does not get the attention it deserves. The recent spectacular Proton launcher failure was due
    to outright sabotage where a critical sensor was hammered into place upside down. If the average
    aerospace worker was acting like some village idiot, then Russia would simply have no space program.
    So this is not a sample of "typical Russian work ethics".

    The Bulava SLBM problems went away when the Americans camped nearby as part of the 1990s
    Yeltsin agreements to oversee arms control and to "secure" technology from leaking to rogue states were
    finally told to take a hike. The weakest link is always made out of human flesh. Factory workers are
    not confined to barb wire enclosed Siberian compounds or kept on a 24/7 surveillance leash from their
    toilet to the shop floor. There is lots of room for US alphabet agencies to meddle. There is also clearly
    lots of will in Washington to engage in such meddling.

    George1
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    Re: Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

    Post  George1 on Tue Mar 17, 2015 5:10 am

    Bloggers are looking for lost space probe on Mars

    The study of Soviet space probes that landed on Mars in the early 1970s could be useful in setting up bases on the Red Planet, scientists say.

    A group of scientists and space enthusiasts from Russia is trying to figure out where the remnants of Soviet spacecraft Mars-6 are. They’ve already managed, thanks to the help of NASA satellites, to unearth where Mars-3 is.

    This probe was the first spacecraft to successfully accomplish a landing on the Red Planet. The group is also going to search for the first Soviet mission on Mars, the Mars-2 probe, which was launched in May 1971. The spacecraft crashed during landing, but it became the first artificial object to land on Mars. According to scientists, studying these spacecrafts will help humankind in its conquest of the planet.


    Space archaeology

    A few years ago space enthusiast Vitaly Egorov was surprised to learn that the location of the Soviet probes Mars-6 and Mars-2 still remains a mystery. Nobody had ever seen the Mars-3 spacecraft either. The latter had been the protagonist of a phenomenal achievement, the first successful landing of a spacecraft on Mars in December 1971.

    The spacecraft ceased to transmit data just 14.5 seconds after landing. Although it only managed to transmit a panorama of the surrounding surface, it demonstrated that a successful landing on Mars was possible. “Over 40 years ago Mars-3 accomplished a landing almost in the same sequence as the American spacecraft Curiosity in 2012,” says Egorov.

    Egorov began his search for the lost Soviet spacecrafts with the aid of pictures taken by the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) scientific satellite. The latter is equipped with a high resolution HiRise camera.

    “We accept image suggestions from anyone in the world at our website,” Alfred S. McEwen, director of the Planetary Image Research Laboratory of the University of Arizona and manager of the MRO HiRise scientific team, told RBTH.

    Egorov assembled group of bloggers, space enthusiasts and scientists that discovered an object similar to a Soviet space probe in the shots taken by the MRO. He contacted Alexander Bazilevsky, a professor at the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry.

    Thanks to his support, in March 2013 NASA organized another photo session with the MRO. In the pictures they could clearly identify an overturned axis with soft landing engines, the cone brake, the parachute and the landing module, which measured 1.5 meters. There were no doubts that it was the Mars-3 space probe.


    'The atmosphere on Mars is variable'


    Now the group set up by Egorov is trying to find out where Mars-6 is. The spacecraft entered the atmosphere of Mars in 1974. Immediately after landing it ceased all transmissions. According to one version, the breakdown was caused by a Martian storm that caught the probe while its soft landing engines were being started.

    “According to the telemetry data, the spacecraft opened its parachute,” Egorov says. “We have been trying to find it, but so far to no avail. In the pictures that we have, we have noticed some dots that might have been produced by a descending module, but so far we have not gathered enough supporting evidence. We are waiting for new pictures of the area where the spacecraft presumably landed.”

    According to McEwen, the study of the photographs taken by Mars-3 and Mars-6 helps scientists to understand the reasons for the troubles experienced by Soviet hardware.

    “Any new high-resolution image may tell us something new and important about Mars,” says McEwen.

    “An image of the old Soviet landing hardware can also provide information to the engineers about what did and did not work correctly.”

    “From the pictures we can even determine the extent to which these Soviet spacecrafts have been covered by sand or dust,” Bazilevsky told RBTH. “This is one of the ways we have to study the atmosphere of the Red Planet, which is important for the construction of a future station on Mars. That planet’s atmosphere is so variable with periodic storms and strong winds, unlike the Moon where the traces of lunar spacecraft can remain intact for thousands of years.”

    - http://rbth.co.uk/science_and_tech/2015/03/16/bloggers_are_looking_for_lost_space_probe_on_mars_44525.html)

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    Re: Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

    Post  Big_Gazza on Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:01 pm

    According to Perminovs book "Difficult Road to Mars" the cause of the systemic failures observed in the 1974 armada of Mars 4,5,6 & 7 were due to faulty microchips.  Some bright spark had the idea to save a few rubles by replacing the gold in the chips with aluminium.  Somehow this idea went ahead, and it wasn't until the probes were built and commited to the launch window that it was discovered that the modifications lead to corrosion of the connection points.  It was decided to launch anyway, and the result was that chip failure resulted in mission losses.  Mars 4 orbiter missed its orbital injection, Mars 5 entered orbit but was lost soon afterwards when the electronics enclosure was vented to space, Mars 6 lander was crippled with the loss of Mars 4&5 as the lander relied on orbiters to maintain commlink during descent as the flyby-only bus would drop below the local horizon prior to landing, and the Mars 7 lander missed and entered solar orbit.  Its unknown if Mars 6 survived the landing, and telemetry showing it gyrating wildly on its parachute, but without the orbiters to act as radio relays, the landing science was always going to be lost.

    Mars 3 does however have the honour of being the first successful lander. NASA MRO images have located Mars 3 and its landing hardware (heat shield, braking rocket & parachute) and the lander appears to be deployed with its petals open and the lander upright. It seems that the cause of the loss of transmission was not a lander failure, but the Mars 3 orbiter (acting as radio relay) prematurely dropping below the local horizon (as evidenced by simultaneous cutout of both redundant transmitters).  Mars 3 orbiter was supposed to be injected into a 24 hr orbit, but a loss of fuel during flight prevented a sufficiently long engine burn and resulted in a highly elliptical 13 day orbit.  Instead of being available for relaying the first TV scan and then revisiting the landing zone the next day, the orbiter dropped below the horizon too soon and took more than a week to return, after which the landers batteries were long dead.  

    BTW the loss of Phobos 1 by erroneous command was due to there being old software routines still present from testing.  Instead of being deleted prior to launch, they were left in place, and the transmitted codes accidentally triggered the test routines and shutdown the attitude control system.

    Soviet failures at Mars were a combination of bad engineering decisions, bad luck, unreliable technology, and inflexible hard-wired spacecraft that were unable to be reprogrammed to alter the mission in light of unanticipated circumstances.  They can tantalisingly close on a few occasions however, particulary the Mars 3 lander...

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    Re: Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

    Post  Big_Gazza on Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:35 pm

    George1 wrote:
    Now the group set up by Egorov is trying to find out where Mars-6 is. The spacecraft entered the atmosphere of Mars in 1974. Immediately after landing it ceased all transmissions. According to one version, the breakdown was caused by a Martian storm that caught the probe while its soft landing engines were being started.

    “According to the telemetry data, the spacecraft opened its parachute,” Egorov says. “We have been trying to find it, but so far to no avail. In the pictures that we have, we have noticed some dots that might have been produced by a descending module, but so far we have not gathered enough supporting evidence. We are waiting for new pictures of the area where the spacecraft presumably landed.”

    Actually, radio contact was lost with Mars 6 lander during parachute descent when the Mars 6 fly-by bus descended below the local horizon. The Mars 6 lander was fitted with telemetry uplink for use during decent (which Mars 2&3 didn't have) but it was intended to use radio repeaters on Mars 4 & 5 orbiters to rely the lander signals to earth, but the previous failures of both orbiters meant that the Mars 6 fly-by bus had to be used, and its trajectory meant that it only cover the lander for a portion of its descent. It is possible that Mars 6 did successfully land, but we won't know until its remains are imaged.

    Keep in mind that the 1974 launch window was less favorable than the 1972 window of Mars 2/3, and the spacecraft had by necessity a lower mass. The mass was insufficient for each spacecraft to both enter orbit and drop a lander, so Mars 4&5 were orbiters, while Mars 6&7 were fly-bys which dropped landers as the flew past.

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    Re: Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

    Post  Big_Gazza on Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:44 pm

    kvs wrote:The recent spectacular Proton launcher failure was due
    to outright sabotage where a critical sensor was hammered into place upside down.   If the average
    aerospace worker was acting like some village idiot, then Russia would simply have no space program.
    So this is not a sample of "typical Russian work ethics".

    Yes, sabotage is entirely possible. Whoever installed the yaw sensor modules in upside down had to work hard to make them fit. On the other hand, designing these modules so that they can be inserted wrongly and still feed valid signals to the flight control system when the rocket is stationary is a gross design flaw. What is especially galling is that Protons 1st stage is very reliable, and this stupid error not only caused the loss of three Glonass satellites, but it gave the USA another opportunity to snicker and demean Russian technical capabilities. Combine this fault with the ongoing reliability issues with the Breeze upper stage and Russia has had a very bad patch of late. We can only hope that the appropriate lessons have been learned and these failures will no longer occur.

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    Re: Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

    Post  Rmf on Sun Mar 22, 2015 11:47 am

    i am not so sure actually ,venus probes , flyby or orbiters+ landers , didnt have that many problems ,in  leningrad- svetlana institute was manufacturing transistors ince 1955 for military and civilian use and was reliable.

    although venus is closer then mars, orbital mechanics and ecoomical routes mean it travels about just as long as traveling to mars would take ,venus probes also had more sun radiation bursts and solar winds to whitstand ,even recent phobos -grunt probe was stuck in orbit -so mars does have some bad luck...
    sometime orbiters worked but landers didnt, or vice versa....

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    Re: Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

    Post  Big_Gazza on Sun Mar 22, 2015 2:28 pm

    Rmf wrote:i am not so sure actually ,venus probes , flyby or orbiters+ landers , didnt have that many problems ,in  leningrad- svetlana institute was manufacturing transistors ince 1955 for military and civilian use and was reliable.

    although venus is closer then mars, orbital mechanics and ecoomical routes mean it travels about just as long as traveling to mars would take ,venus probes also had more sun radiation bursts and solar winds to whitstand ,even recent phobos -grunt probe was stuck in orbit -so mars does have some bad luck...
    sometime orbiters worked but landers didnt, or vice versa....

    The Venus missions did not use the faulty chips. Mars 4-7 were launched mid-1973, while the first of the 3MS-derived spacecraft (Veneras 9 & 10) were launched 2 years later. It's significant that the heavy Venera orbiters all functioned well and the Mars orbiters/fly-bys were so dogged with problems. Its fair to say that the Soviets would have tried again, but given the tremendous success of the US Vikings (and that the Soviet Mars landers were so "agricultural" in comparison), they felt that any science returns would be overshadowed and only serve to demonstrate their inferior technical level. Its a great pity as I would have loved to see what images the Mars 3 lander mechanical scan camera could produce.

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    Re: Soviet/Russian Mars spacecrafts failures:

    Post  Rmf on Fri Mar 27, 2015 9:43 pm

    well after the moon landing in early 70s there was a mini space race to send probes to nearby planets using good lauch windows to mars and venus.
    venus orbiters had some shieling and thus better cooling but electronics parts were taken from aborted mars missions because they were assembled and readied too late to launch.
    so i am taking strictly about orbiters- there wasnt difference between mars and venus orbiters.

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