Photos taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter circling the red planet pointed to what may be the Mars 3 lander along with its parachute, heat shield and other hardware that it jettisoned during the descent through the thin Martian atmosphere.
While scientists said the find appeared promising, more follow-up was needed to rule out other possibilities.
Mars 3 operated for only 15 seconds on the Martian surface before it suddenly stopped communicating. It was part of a double mission the Soviet Union launched in 1971. Its twin, Mars 2, crashed.
The Russian space enthusiasts were part of an online group that followed the Curiosity rover, NASA's latest Mars mission. They used crowdsourcing to pore through publicly available archive images and contacted scientists about their find.
Earlier this year, at the group's request, the reconnaissance orbiter passed over the region where Mars 3 was thought to have landed and photographed the site.
While the pictures showed features that appeared consistent with a spacecraft landing, scientists said they could just be rocks or other natural geological formations.
There are future plans to take more pictures and talk to Russian engineers about the mission to get a better idea of the landing process.
There's always the chance that "we may not get a definitive answer," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson, who is in charge of the camera aboard the reconnaissance orbiter.
During Curiosity's landing last year, the reconnaissance orbiter was able to locate its parachute, rocket stage and cables that were cast away as the car-size vehicle touched down inside an ancient crater. In that case, engineers knew where Curiosity would land, allowing scientists to direct the spacecraft to be in the right place to capture the landing.
More Nation & World Headlines
Obama, Cuba's Raul Castro meet for 2nd time this year GOP: Planned Parenthood spends federal money on politics 1:11 p.m. Yemen officials: Death toll from strikes on wedding at 131 1:16 p.m. Congress: U.S. fails to stop most people trying to join ISIS 1:14 p.m. Maine college researchers discover new microscopic organism 1:18 p.m. Medicare’s $30M ambulance-ride mystery 1:16 p.m. Brady says pro-Trump comments taken out of context 1:15 p.m. Taliban secure hold on key Afghan city despite US airstrike 1:14 p.m.
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.