Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It is an out of this world mystery--so far out of this world it reaches all the way to Mars---and now UA may have helped solve it.
The old Soviet Union landed it a probe called Mars 3 on Mars more than 40 years ago. It was packed with cameras and sophisticated instruments. It transmitted less than 20 seconds and no one's heard from it since.
Now a camera designed and run by the U of A may have solved a long standing space mystery and found the Mars 3.
In 1971, the Mars 3 probe made the first soft landing on Mars, sent one fuzzy photo---then nothing.
Dr. Alfred McEwen of UA Planetary Sciences says, "A lot of things had to go have worked right for that but still the mystery is why did it fail after 20 seconds and we can't resolve that."
Now we may have photos of the lander's parachute and even the spacecraft. They are from a powerful camera called HiRise developed and commanded at U of A. It is orbiting Mars now.
Dr. McEwen uses that power to study how Mars formed. He's not sure the probe is found but says the pictures do look encouraging.
Once HiRise took pictures where the Mars 3 might be; amateur Russian space enthusiasts from this website spent years looking for the lander.
Dr. McEwen says, "They did a great job of making little scale models of all the pieces that should be there on the surface at the scale of the HiRise images and compared them to all the features in the HiRise image which is hard because these are really enormous images and very tiny features."
Vitaly Erogov led the hunt. When we reached him in Russia, he said he felt like the explorer sometimes credited with finding the ancient city of Troy.
He told us: "It was unexpected. I practically lost hope....suddenly I saw object which could be that lander."
Now he's hoping a Mars Rover will roll up someday to really tell us what happened to the long lost lander.