Deep Space 2

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Deep Space 2 penetrator
DS2 probes with heat shield and mounting bracket

The failed New Millennium Program Mission Deep Space 2 (also DS2 or Mars Microprobe Project ) consisted of two penetrator probes that were supposed to drill unchecked into the surface of the planet Mars .


The two probes were launched on January 3, 1999 as an additional payload together with the Mars probe Mars Polar Lander using a Delta 7425 rocket from Cape Canaveral . After the successful start, they were named after the polar explorers Amundsen and Scott .

The probes, each weighing only 2.4 kg, were carried passively by the main Mars Polar Lander probe. Only two minutes before entering the Martian atmosphere did they break away from the main probe and each entered the atmosphere protected by its own heat shield . Apart from the heat shield, no further braking measures were used, so that they hit the surface at around 700 km / h. The heat shield was not thrown off, but shattered on impact, releasing the penetrator. The probes experienced accelerations several thousand times higher than the acceleration due to gravity , which amounted to 30,000  g for the penetrating part of the penetrator and 60,000 g for the communication unit remaining on the surface. The lower part of the penetrator should penetrate about 60 cm into the ground, while the unit remaining on the surface should provide communication with the Mars orbiter Mars Global Surveyor . Both components remained connected with a flexible cable.

After entering the Martian atmosphere over the south polar region on December 3, 1999, no connection to the probes could be established. The cause of the error could not be determined, but the investigative commission indicated three possible causes:

  • The radio equipment was possibly too sensitive to withstand the acceleration forces.
  • The probes could have hit too rocky ground.
  • The batteries charged before take-off lost their charge during the flight.

Structure of the probes

Structure of the DS2 probes

See also

Web links

Commons : Deep Space 2  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files