Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander

Mars Surveyor 98 - Lost












 Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO)

 Launched Dec. 11, 1998  Lost Sept. 23, 1999

 Mars Polar Lander (MPL)

  Launched Jan. 3, 1999  Lost Dec. 3, 1999






Mars 98 was my first big chance to make a splash, artwise. Well, the project made a splash alright - of the non-survivable kind.

The Mars 98 project was my chance to take the iniative and do what I could to show the public what it was all about. By the time the first of the four Mars 98 spacecraft arrived at Mars, I had already created a large set of mission artwork. I managed to show the newly renamed Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander in a variety of different scenes. Then, one at a time, the entire Mars 98 project, including both Deep Space 2 microprobes, vanished ..... lost in space. I was there the night the Mars Climate Orbiter was lost and it was quite an experience.


Mars Climate Orbiter Mars Orbit Insertion at JPL, Sept. 23, 1999, early AM

My first arrival at Mars

Mars 98 mission mangers during the night Mars Orbit insertion for Mars Climate Orbiter. I was watching from outside the glass-enclosed control room. There was hardly anyone there becaue it was late at night and very few JPL'ers had access to that area. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see history. The person visible through in the right image might be me (marked by an arrow).


It was a really big story when the spacecraft were lost and my image were widely used around the world. The example above is one of many I saved for my archives.



My first landing on Mars - Mars Polar Landing Day, Dec. 3 1999




We had to wait a long nine months from the launch of Mars Polar Lander to it's arrival at it's carefully selected landing ellipse on the northern polar plains. But now the day had finally come. The world's media descended on JPL to cover this dramatic event. I posed next to a media tent while my former wife Emily took the picture. I don't remember seeing media at JPL the night Mars Climate Orbiter arrived but now the stakes for NASA were much higher and the world was watching.






The Flight Operations Team wore special badges with my artwork on it (above). Left: Sam Thurman, Mars 98 Flight Operations Manager. If you look closely you can see his Flight Operations team badge. Sam was my main contact with the team and was the one who approved my set of images.





Left: Rich Cook, a mission manager, and Rich Zurek, Mars 98 project scientist in the control room waiting for a signal. Sam Thurman (in foreground) looks back at the team as they waited for the signal that never arrived.



Happier times with Mars 98

That's me at the 1998 JPL Open House standing to my artwork of Mars Polar Lander (and holding a 2nd image of MPL) Special Event for JPL'ers and family members: if I recall it was a live concert performance of The Planets by Holtz at the Hollywood Bowl. To our surprise, the Mars Outreach team set up posters at the bowl with some of my artwork on them: Mars Polar Lander, Mars 2001 Orbiter and Mars 2001 Lander. That's my ex-wife Emily.





These are the computer models of the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander that I created to make realistic looking artwork images. Back in 1998-1999 when I created the orbiter model I assumed the logos and silvery covering on the back of the solar panels were correct. But I suspect that covering would have been removed before flight.


Mars 98 Website Artwork


I created the Mars 98 website banner. Everything was set and then disaster struck, not once but four times - the orbiter, lander and two microprobes were all lost. Click on these banners to visit the websites which have sat unchanged since the missions ended.


JPL and NASA Mars 98 Image Links 
Getting Data from Deep Space 2 and Mars Polar Lander: Mars Relay Plans
Mars Surveyor 98 artist renditions
NSSDC Mars Climate Orbiter page
NSSDC Mars Polar Lander page
Mars Polar Lander website artwork
Mars Climate Orbiter website
Mars Polar Lander website
Mars Polar Lander Slide Set (slides 18 and 19)
Mars Polar Lander at MSSS

Old Mars 98 Stereo Spacecraft Images


My Mars Polar Lander image was published on the cover a 2002 book called "Mars Probes", by Peter Crowther.


The Mars 98 logo was created by JPL's David Seal. The central idea is shown in the globe of Mars, which was split down the middle to depict what Mars may have looked like in the past (on the left) and what it looks like today (on the right). This illustrated the science objectives of the mission, which was to study the history of Mars' climate and the behavior of water vapor and ground ice.



My early Mars 98 logos. They mainly served as web icons, not actual logos that were used by the project, to the best of my knowledge. I still have no good answer for how you can show a lander near the South Pole. This was one possible way to do it, showing Mars upside down.

This is very early Mars artwork of mine, just before I first arrived at JPL. It's my entry for the Mars 98 logo contest. I borrowed pre-existing spacecraft artwork to create a double-logo for a two spacecraft mission. The lander was targeted to the South Polar region, which I tried to show with the orbiter. I was very amateurish in those days but somehow I survived and improved.


My Mars Surveyor 98 artwork on postage stamps

Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander




Fourth Millennium mission art links






Continue to 2001 Mars Odyssey



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