MISSIONS TO MARS TIMELINE: 1992 to 2004
September 25, 1992 - Mars Observer launched. Spacecraft designed to map the martian surface from orbit with a large, sophisticated science payload.
August, 1993 - contact lost with Mars Observer.
1995 - NASA selects Mars Polar Lander for 1999 launch.
1996 - Athena Mars Rover mission proposed (unsuccessfully) to NASA Discovery Program for launch in 2002.
November 7, 1996 - Mars Global Surveyor launched.
November 16, 1996 - Russian Mars '96 orbiter/landers launched.
November 17, 1996 - Mars '96 fails to achieve insertion into Mars cruise trajectory and re-enters the Earth's atmosphere.
December 4, 1996 - Mars Pathfinder launched.
July 4, 1997 - Mars Pathfinder lands on Mars and begins a successful mission.
September 11, 1997 - Mars Global Surveyor arrives at Mars and begins a successful mission that continues today.
September 27, 1997 - last successful data transmission from Mars Pathfinder
November, 1997 - Athena Mars Rover Payload selected for launch in 2001.
Spring, 1998 - NASA and JPL announce that due to engineering problems and funding shortages in the Mars program, launch of the Athena Mars Rover Payload will be delayed until 2003, with landing in 2004. Instead, NASA will send a stationary lander (similar to the Mars Polar Lander) to Mars in 2001. Four Athena instruments would be flown on this lander as a precursor to the full Athena investigation in 2003.
July 3, 1998 - Nozomi, Japanese Mars orbiter launched.
December 11, 1998 - Mars Climate Orbiter launched.
December 21, 1998 - course correction burns leave Nozomi with less fuel than expected. The orbiter is to remain in heliocentric orbit for five years.
January 3, 1999 - Mars Polar Lander launched.
September, 1999 - Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft fails to achieve orbit due to a navigation error.
December 3, 1999 - Mars Polar Lander fails, apparently due to a software error.
May, 2000 - Mars 2001 Lander mission, which would have used a lander similar to Mars Polar Lander, cancelled by NASA. Mars program undergoes a major restructuring.
July, 2000 - NASA selects the Mars Exploration Rover mission for flight in 2003. The mission will send a large rover to Mars carrying the Athena Mars Rover Payload, and will use the same landing system that was used successfully by Mars Pathfinder.
August, 2000 - NASA announces that two identical rovers will be flown in 2003, each carrying identical copies of the Athena payload.
April 7, 2001 - Mars Odyssey orbiter launched; will aid in landing site selection for MER and relay data from Athena instruments.
June 2, 2003 - The European Space Agency's Mars Express Orbiter and Beagle 2 Lander launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
June 10, 2003 - The MER-A rover called Spirit is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
July 7, 2003 - The MER-B rover called Opportunity is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
December 9, 2003 - Nozomi mission abandoned due to lack of fuel and a damaged electrical system.
December 26, 2003 - Mars Express arrives at Mars.
January 3, 2004 - The Mars rover Spirit lands.
January 25, 2004 - The Mars rover Opportunity lands.
January, 2004-present - The rovers Spirit and Opportunity operate on the martian surface.