Every Mission to Mars in One Visualization
Timeline: A Historical Look at Every Mission to Mars
Within our Solar System, Mars is one of the most similar planets to Earth—both have rocky landscapes, solid outer crusts, and cores made of molten rock.
Because of its similarities to Earth and proximity, humanity has been fascinated by Mars for centuries. In fact, it’s one of the most explored objects in our Solar System.
But just how many missions to Mars have we embarked on, and which of these journeys have been successful? This graphic by Jonathan Letourneau shows a timeline of every mission to Mars since 1960 using NASA’s historical data.
A Timeline of Mars Explorations
According to a historical log from NASA, there have been 48 missions to Mars over the last 60 years. Here’s a breakdown of each mission, and whether or not they were successful:
|1||1960||Korabl 4||USSR (flyby)||Failure|
|2||1960||Korabl 5||USSR (flyby)||Failure|
|3||1962||Korabl 11||USSR (flyby)||Failure|
|4||1962||Mars 1||USSR (flyby)||Failure|
|5||1962||Korabl 13||USSR (flyby)||Failure|
|6||1964||Mariner 3||US (flyby)||Failure|
|7||1964||Mariner 4||US (flyby)||Success|
|8||1964||Zond 2||USSR (flyby)||Failure|
|11||1969||Mariner 6||US (flyby)||Success|
|12||1969||Mariner 7||US (flyby)||Success|
|15||1971||Mars 2 Orbiter/Lander||USSR||Failure|
|16||1971||Mars 3 Orbiter/Lander||USSR||Success/Failure|
|20||1973||Mars 6 Orbiter/Lander||USSR||Success/Failure|
|21||1973||Mars 7 Lander||USSR||Failure|
|22||1975||Viking 1 Orbiter/Lander||US||Success|
|23||1975||Viking 2 Orbiter/Lander||US||Success|
|24||1988||Phobos 1 Orbiter||USSR||Failure|
|25||1988||Phobos 2 Orbiter/Lander||USSR||Failure|
|27||1996||Mars Global Surveyor||US||Success|
|31||1998||Mars Climate Orbiter||US||Failure|
|32||1999||Mars Polar Lander||US||Failure|
|33||1999||Deep Space 2 Probes (2)||US||Failure|
|35||2003||Mars Express Orbiter/Beagle 2 Lander||ESA||Success/Failure|
|36||2003||Mars Exploration Rover - Spirit||US||Success|
|37||2003||Mars Exploration Rover - Opportunity||US||Success|
|38||2005||Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter||US||Success|
|39||2007||Phoenix Mars Lander||US||Success|
|40||2011||Mars Science Laboratory||US||Success|
|42||2013||Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution||US||Success|
|43||2013||Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)||India||Success|
|44||2016||ExoMars Orbiter/Schiaparelli EDL Demo Lander||ESA/Russia||Success/Failure|
|45||2018||Mars InSight Lander||US||Success|
|47||2020||Tianwen-1 Orbiter/Zhurong Rover||China||Success|
|48||2020||Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover||US||Success|
The first mission to Mars was attempted by the Soviets in 1960, with the launch of Korabl 4, also known as Mars 1960A.
As the table above shows, the voyage was unsuccessful. The spacecraft made it 120 km into the air, but its third-stage pumps didn’t generate enough momentum for it to stay in Earth’s orbit.
For the next few years, several more unsuccessful Mars missions were attempted by the USSR and then NASA. Then, in 1964, history was made when NASA launched the Mariner 4 and completed the first-ever successful trip to Mars.
The Mariner 4 didn’t actually land on the planet, but the spacecraft flew by Mars and was able to capture photos, which gave us an up-close glimpse at the planet’s rocky surface.
Then on July 20, 1976, NASA made history again when its spacecraft called Viking 1 touched down on Mars’ surface, making it the first space agency to complete a successful Mars landing. Viking 1 captured panoramic images of the planet’s terrain, and also enabled scientists to monitor the planet’s weather.
Vacation to Mars, Anyone?
To date, all Mars landings have been done without crews, but NASA is planning to send humans to Mars by the late 2030s.
And it’s not just government agencies that are planning missions to Mars—a number of private companies are getting involved, too. Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX has a long-term plan to build an entire city on Mars.
Two other aerospace startups, Impulse and Relativity, also announced an unmanned joint mission to Mars in July 2022, with hopes it could be ready as soon as 2024.
As more players are added to the mix, the pressure is on to be the first company or agency to truly make it to Mars. If (or when) we reach that point, what’s next is anyone’s guess.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
All of the World’s Spaceports on One Map
This map is a comprehensive look at both existing and proposed spaceports and missile launching locations around the world.
Mapped: The World’s Rocket Launch Sites
From Sputnik 1 to today’s massive satellite constellations, every object in space was launched from just a handful of locations.
The map above, from BryceTech, is a comprehensive look at the world’s spaceports (both orbital and sub-orbital) as well as ballistic missile test sites.
The World’s Major Spaceports
Though the graphic above is a detailed list of many types of rocket launch sites, we’ll focus on major sites that are sending satellites and passengers into sub-orbit, orbit, and beyond.
|Cape Canaveral Space Force Station||Florida||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Cape Canaveral Spaceport||Florida||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Kennedy Space Center||Florida||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Cecil Field Spaceport||Florida||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Colorado Air & Space Port||Colorado||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Vandenberg Air Force Base||California||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Mojave Air and Space Port||California||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Oklahoma Air & Space Port||Oklahoma||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Poker Flat Research Range||Alaska||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Pacific Spaceport Complex||Alaska||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Spaceport America||New Mexico||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Launch Site One (Corn Ranch)||Texas||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Houston Spaceport||Texas||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Midland Air & Space Port||Texas||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|SpaceX Development and Test Facility||Texas||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|SpaceX Starbase||Texas||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Spaceport Camden||Georgia||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport||Virginia||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Wallops Flight Facility||Virginia||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|Reagan Test Site||Kwajalein Atoll||🇲🇭 Marshall Islands|
|Naro Space Center||Outer Naro Island||🇰🇷 South Korea|
|Sohae Satellite Launching Station||North Pyongan Province||🇰🇵 North Korea|
|Kapustin Yar||Astrakhan Oblast||🇷🇺 Russia|
|Plesetsk Cosmodrome||Arkhangelsk Oblast||🇷🇺 Russia|
|Vostochny Cosmodrome||Amur Oblast||🇷🇺 Russia|
|Yasny Launch Base||Orenburg Oblast||🇷🇺 Russia|
|Arnhem Space Centre||Northern Territory||🇦🇺 Australia|
|Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex||South Australia||🇦🇺 Australia|
|Koonibba Test Range||South Australia||🇦🇺 Australia|
|Bowen Orbital Spaceport||Queensland||🇦🇺 Australia|
|Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1||Wairoa District||🇳🇿 New Zealand|
|Baikonur Cosmodrome||Baikonur||🇰🇿 Kazakhstan|
|Space Port Oita||Ōita||🇯🇵 Japan|
|Tanegashima Space Center||Kagoshima||🇯🇵 Japan|
|Uchinoura Space Center||Kagoshima||🇯🇵 Japan|
|Taiki Aerospace Research Field||Hokkaido||🇯🇵 Japan|
|Hokkaido Spaceport||Hokkaido||🇯🇵 Japan|
|Ryori Launch Site||Iwate||🇯🇵 Japan|
|Sonmiani Satellite Launch Center||Balochistan||🇵🇰 Pakistan|
|Integrated Test Range||Odisha||🇮🇳 India|
|Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station||Kerala||🇮🇳 India|
|Satish Dhawan Space Centre||Sriharikota||🇮🇳 India|
|Guiana Space Centre||Kourou||🇬🇫 French Guiana|
|Barreira do Inferno Launch Center||Rio Grande do Norte||🇧🇷 Brazil|
|Alcântara Space Center||Maranhão||🇧🇷 Brazil|
|Stasiun Peluncuran Roket||West Java||🇮🇩 Indonesia|
|Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center||Gansu Province||🇨🇳 China|
|Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center||Shanxi Province||🇨🇳 China|
|Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site||Hainan Province||🇨🇳 China|
|Xichang Satellite Launch Center||Sichuan Province||🇨🇳 China|
|Palmachim Airbase||Central District||🇮🇱 Israel|
|Imam Khomeini Space Launch Terminal||Semnan||🇮🇷 Iran|
|Qom Lauch Facility||Qom||🇮🇷 Iran|
|El Arenosillo Test Centre||Huelva||🇪🇸 Spain|
|Spaceport Sweden||Lapland||🇸🇪 Sweden|
|Esrange Space Center||Lapland||🇸🇪 Sweden|
|Andøya Space||Nordland||🇳🇴 Norway|
|SaxaVord Spaceport||Shetland Islands||🇬🇧 UK|
|Sutherland Spaceport||Sutherland||🇬🇧 UK|
|Western Isles Spaceport||Outer Hebrides||🇬🇧 UK|
|Spaceport Machrihanish||Campbeltown||🇬🇧 UK|
|Prestwick Spaceport||Glasgow||🇬🇧 UK|
|Snowdonia Spaceport||North West Wales||🇬🇧 UK|
|Spaceport Cornwall||Cornwall||🇬🇧 UK|
|Orbex LP1||Moray||🇬🇧 UK|
|Spaceport Nova Scotia||Nova Scotia||🇨🇦 Canada|
Editor’s note: The above table includes all sites that are operational, as well as under construction, as of publishing date.
The list above covers fixed locations, and does not include SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ships. There are currently three active drone ships—one based near Los Angeles, and the other two based at Port Canaveral, Florida.
Two of the most famous launch sites on the list are the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) and Cape Canaveral (United States). The former was constructed as the base of operations for the Soviet space program and was the launch point for Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. The latter was NASA’s primary base of operations and the first lunar-landing flight was launched from there in 1969.
The global roster of spaceports has grown immensely since Baikonur and Cape Canaveral were the only game in town. Now numerous countries have the ability to launch satellites, and many more are getting in on the action.
Wenchang Space Launch Site, on the island of Hainan, is China’s newest launch location. The site recorded its first successful launch in 2016.
One interesting quirk of the map above is the lack of spaceports in Europe. Europe’s ambitions for space are actually launched from the Guiana Space Centre in South America. Europe’s Spaceport has been operating in French Guiana since 1968.
Low altitude launch locations near the equator are the most desirable, as far less energy is required to take a spacecraft from surface level to an equatorial, geostationary orbit.
Islands and coastal areas are also common locations for launch sites. Since the open waters aren’t inhabited, there is minimal risk of harm from debris in the event of a launch failure.
As demand for satellites and space exploration grows, the number of launch locations will continue to grow as well.
War4 weeks ago
Map Explainer: Sudan
Urbanization2 weeks ago
Ranked: The World’s Biggest Steel Producers, by Country
Travel4 weeks ago
Visualized: The World’s Busiest Airports, by Passenger Count
Visual Capitalist1 week ago
Join Us For Data Creator Con 2023
AI3 weeks ago
Visualizing Global Attitudes Towards AI
Economy1 week ago
Charted: Public Trust in the Federal Reserve
Visual Capitalist3 weeks ago
Calling All Data Storytellers to Enter our Creator Program Challenge
Technology1 week ago
Ranked: The World’s Top 25 Websites in 2023