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Mars Polar Lander
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Mars Polar Landerwas launched on 3 January 1999

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Mars Polar Lander (sometimes referred to as the Mars Surveyor '98 Lander) is one of two exploration vehicles of the NASA Mars Surveyor '98 program. Launched on 3 January 1999, 23 days after its partner, the Mars Climate Orbiter, the mission ended in failure with the loss of both craft in separate incidents.
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On December 3, 1999, Mars Polar Lander encountered Mars while mission operators began preparing for landing operations.
However, after the descent phase was expected to be complete, the lander failed to reestablish communication with Earth.

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Mars Polar Lander
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Mars Polar Lander (sometimes referred to as the Mars Surveyor '98 Lander) is one of two exploration vehicles of the NASA Mars Surveyor '98 program. Launched on 3 January 1999, 23 days after its partner, the Mars Climate Orbiter, the mission ended in failure with the loss of both craft in separate incidents.
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The lander was to touch down on the southern polar layered terrain, between 73S and 76S in the region, Planum Australe less than 1,000 km from the south pole, on December 3, 1999.
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An image, taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on the 24th August, 2009, shows the area of the Mars Polar Lander's presumed crash site.


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Scientists hope the public can help find the Mars Polar Lander's resting place in released images.
Back in 1999, the Mars Polar Lander (MPL) went missing as it entered Marss atmosphere, and its fate has been a mystery ever since. But now there is a chance for a member of the public to locate the missing spacecraft and help work out what went wrong.

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Undiscovered code bug is likely cause of Mars Polar Lander crash: The conclusions reached by an investigation team from post-crash testing and analysis; since there was no telemetry from the MPL during atmospheric entry, descent, or landing, is that there can be no way to know for sure exactly what happened.

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While a number of failure scenarios were examined, a specific candidate failure scenario emerged - one borne out by repeated ground-based, post-failure testing. Four tests in early 2000 by Lockheed Martin in Denver showed that sensors in the MPL's landing gear sent out spurious signals. Software that should have been designed to ignore these signals was not designed to do so after all. These signals were interpreted by the spacecraft as being indicative of the forces landing legs would experience upon landing and the descent engines were shut off. This design flaw was not caught before launch since a series of tests used sensors that were wired incorrectly. Ergo, the problem was not detected, and Mars Polar Lander was sent on a doomed flight to Mars. Again, while there is no way to be certain that this flaw was the actual cause of the MPL failure, but the investigation team was more or less certain that the engines were shut off at an altitude of 40 metres and that the MPL crashed into the Martian surface at 22 metres per second.



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Tentative identification of the Mars Polar Lander crash site: Shortly after the loss of Mars Polar Lander, after a NASA software blunder, the Mars Global Surveyor MOC was employed to acquire dozens of 1.5 m/pixel images of the landing zone ellipses. It looked for any evidence of the lander and its fate; searching for any bright feature of irregular or elongated shape (the parachute) within about 1 kilometre of a location that included a dark area (rocket-disturbed Martian dirt) and a small, bright spot near its centre (the lander).

Observations by the Mars Global Surveyor in 2004 to re-examination the previously identified candidate, showed that the "parachute" in the candidate location image turns out to be consistent with it being the same material as the Mars Exploration rovers material (the parachutes are made of similar material) Later this year NASA will direct Mars Global Surveyor to re-examine the MPL crash site using a special technique to improve the camera's resolution to 0.5 meter per pixel.

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Hopefully, the new observations will provide the conclusive evidence needed to officially close the case of the missing Mars Polar Lander.

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