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The Race to Mars 1965 1969 1971-72 1973-74 1976 1988 1993 1996 1997 1999 2001 2003-04 2005 Milestones in exploration

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L: Image taken by Mars Climate Orbiter as it nears the Red Planet before burning up
R: Artists' impression of Mars Polar Lander (Nasa)
September 1999

Another Nasa space craft, Mars Climate Orbiter, is lost as it arrives at the Red Planet. A mix-up over units for a key space craft operation is blamed - one team used English units while the other used metric.

December 1999

The $165m Mars Polar Lander goes silent as it attempts to touch down near the south pole of the planet. The costly failure forces the agency to reassess its entire Mars exploration programme.

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Mars Polar Lander hits the headlines

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