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13 November 2011

On this day in history: First manmade object to orbit another planet, 1971

On 30th May 1971, an Atlas-Centaur rocket launched from Cape Canaveral carrying the Mariner 9 spacecraft. NASA's Mariner program was an investigation of Mars, Venus and Mercury using unmanned probes. Mariner craft achieved many firsts: Mariner 2 was the first spacecraft to fly past another planet (Venus) and Mariner 4 was the first to pass close to Mars.

The program also had its fair share of setbacks: Mariner 1 was destroyed following a rocket malfunction; Mariner 3 failed to reach Mars due to a technical fault; and Mariner 8 ended up in the Atlantic Ocean after an unsuccessful launch. With the demise of Mariner 8, its identical sister craft was tasked with becoming the first object to orbit another planet. Mariner 9 arrived at Mars on 13th November when it entered orbit.

For nearly a year, NASA received data from the probe's infrared and ultraviolet instruments. Mariner 9 also took photographs of the planet's surface after having to wait for a couple of months because of the amount of dust in Mars' atmosphere. The scientists switched Mariner 9 off on 27th October 1972 after it depleted its supply of gas that fuelled the altitude control.

Related posts
First man-made object to reach the Moon: 14th September 1959
First woman in space: 16th June 1963
Launch of Apollo 13: 11th April 1970
Only spaceflight of Buran: 15th November 1988

Also on this day in history
The Brezhnev Doctrine, 1968


JoshuaTraffic said...

This is indeed an amazing day for history, as the Mariner 9 left for one of the most historic voyages in space history. Certainly fascinating.

Space is a new topic that I find very educational.

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Stepterix said...

Thanks for the comment