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Frontier II was the name of the NASA mission that achieved the first-ever human landing on the surface of Mars, launching from the Amarillo Space Center in Amarillo, Texas on June 8th, 2002 and arriving in Mars' orbit on March 15, 2003. After 15 days in orbit, astronauts Owen Wilson, Ted Collins, Samantha Arbiter and Ethan McGrady piloted the landing craft Voyage I down to the surface of Mars, where they spent days collecting samples and attaching the craft to the rocket that would propel them back into Mars' orbit on April 3rd. On December 19th, 2003, the Frontier II returned to Earth's orbit, and the Voyage I reentered the atmosphere with all seven astronauts on the mission aboard and successfully landed in the Indian Ocean.
The mission, part of the United States' greater Frontier program, occurred three years after the successful Frontier I mission which orbited the Red Planet in August of 2000. The two missions took almost ten years of planning and relied on the advance deployment of booster rockets to the Martian orbit in anticipation for the return flight - Frontier II was especially difficult as it relied upon the astronauts attaching the Voyage I capsule to the booster rocket that would return it to orbit. The success of both missions paved the way for the 2008 Frontier III manned Mars mission and the planned 2012 Frontier IV and 2015 Frontier V. The success of these missions is regarded as having reenergized America's interest in spaceflight and raising the stakes in the four-way space race between the United States, France, Japan and China.