The second part of my latest article, “Planetary Orbit Insertion Failures Part II”, has been published on line in The Space Review. With a half a dozen spacecraft currently en route to various targets throughout the Solar System that are destined to enter orbit around them, I figured that this was a good opportunity to review the history of orbit insertion failures over the last forty years of planetary exploration. Part II of this article discusses the missions of Mars Observer, Phobos 1 and the Mars 4 which had the dubious distinction of being the first planetary orbit insertion failure back in 1974. Also covered in Part II is the near-failure of Mars 3 in 1971 which was the topic of a recent post in Drew Ex Machina.  Below I have included links to the articles and to on-line videos related to the Mars Observer and the Soviet Mars 2 and 3 missions.

Part I of this article, published earlier, covered the Japanese Akatsuki and Nozomi missions which failed to enter orbit around Venus and Mars, respectively (the former of which is among the six missions currently destined to orbit their target in a rare second orbit insertion attempt), NASA’s infamous Mars Climate Orbiter failure, and NEAR-Shoemaker which has the distinction of being the only orbit insertion failure that got a second chance and (so far) succeeded.


Related Reading

“The Mars Orbiter That Almost Was Not”, Drew Ex Machina, May 22, 2014 [Post]

“Planetary Orbit Insertion Failures Part I”, The Space Review, Article #2533, June 16, 2014 [Article]

“Planetary Orbit Insertion Failures Part II”, The Space Review, Article #2536, June 23, 2014 [Article]


Related Videos

This is a short documentary produced by JPL on what was hoped would be learned from NASA’s Mars Observer mission which was suppose to enter orbit around Mars on August 24, 1993.



Here is a short Soviet-era documentary film on the M-71 missions that included Mars 2 and 3. Although it is in Russian, it provides some excellent footage of the construction and testing of the M-71P spacecraft along with Russian animation of the mission to land on Mars.