Visiting Our Planetary Neighbours

The United States Mariner program was a 10-mission program of interplanetary probes launched from 1962 to 1973 during the height of the Space Race. The robotic probes were destined for the rocky inner planets (Mercury, Venus and Mars) and built by the Californian based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and managed in conjunction with NASA.

satellite-observatory

Mariner Program Summary

The Mariner program included a number of space exploration firsts, such as the first planetary flyby (Mariner 2), the first planetary orbiter (Mariner 9), and the first gravity assist manoeuvre (Mariner 10). Mariner spacecraft would also become the first to visit the other terrestrial rocky planets; Mercury, Venus and Mars.

NASA and JPL launched 10 Mariner spacecraft, with 7 being successful, forming a solid beginning and paving the way for many more NASA/JPL space probe programs. Originally there was planned to be more than 10 Mariner missions, to the more distant gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn, but these missions were later reclassified into the highly successful Voyager program. It’s been reported that the total cost of the Mariner program missions was approximately $554 million US dollars, which is equivalent to one or two space exploration missions these days!

Fast Summary Facts The NASA/JPL Mariner Missions!

  • Name: Mariner 1
  • Mission Type & Destination:  Flyby, Venus
  • Launch Date:  July 22nd 1962
  • Arrival Date:  -
  • Current Location:  Destroyed when its rocket malfunctioned  
  • Points of Note:  First attempted interplanetary spacecraft
  • Name:  Mariner 2
  • Mission Type & Destination:  Flyby, Venus
  • Launch Date:  August 27th 1962
  • Arrival Date:  December 14th 1962
  • Current Location:  Heliocentric orbit (orbiting the Sun)
  • Points of Note:  The Mariner 2 spacecraft became the first spacecraft to successfully flyby another planet.
  • Name: Mariner 3
  • Mission Type & Destination:  Flyby, Mars
  • Launch Date:  November 5th 1964
  • Arrival Date:  -
  • Current Location: Heliocentric orbit (orbiting the Sun)
  • Points of Note:  Failed due to nose cone refused to jettison
  • Name:  Mariner 4
  • Mission Type & Destination:  Flyby, Mars
  • Launch Date:  November 28th 1964
  • Arrival Date:  July 15th 1965
  • Current Location:  Heliocentric orbit (orbiting the Sun)  
  • Points of Note:  The Mariner 4 spacecraft became the first spacecraft to flyby Mars and was the first to return pictures of the surface.
  • Name:  Mariner 5
  • Mission Type & Destination:  Flyby, Venus
  • Launch Date:  June 14th 1967
  • Arrival Date:  October 19th 1967
  • Current Location:  Heliocentric orbit (orbiting the Sun)  
  • Points of Note:  Data from Mariner 5 helped to understand the temperature and pressure environment of Venus.
  • Name:  Mariner 6
  • Mission Type & Destination:  Flyby, Mars
  • Launch Date:  February 24th 1969
  • Arrival Date:  July 31st 1969
  • Current Location:  Heliocentric orbit (orbiting the Sun)  
  • Points of Note:  Mariner 6 few as a dual mission with Mariner 7. Mariner 6, the first to launch, flew over the equator of Mars with a mission goal to image the surface and study the atmosphere.
  • Name:  Mariner 7
  • Mission Type & Destination:  Flyby, Mars
  • Launch Date:  March 21st 1969
  • Arrival Date:  August 5th 1969
  • Current Location:  Heliocentric orbit (orbiting the Sun)  
  • Points of Note:  Mariner 7 few as a dual mission with Mariner 6 with a mission goal to image the surface and study the atmosphere. Mariner 7 flew over the south polar region at closest flyby.
  • Name: Mariner 8
  • Mission Type & Destination:  Orbit Mars
  • Launch Date:  November 5th 1964
  • Arrival Date:  -
  • Current Location: Destroyed during launch
  • Points of Note:  Upper Centaur stage failure resulting in reentry. As of 2017 Mariner 8 is the last United States interplanetary spacecraft lost due to a launch failure.
  • Name:  Mariner 9
  • Mission Type & Destination:  Orbiter, Mars
  • Launch Date:  May 30th 1971
  • Arrival Date:  November 14th 1971
  • Current Location:  Areocentric orbit (orbiting Mars), expected to crash in 2022
  • Points of Note:  Mariner 9 was the first spacecraft to orbit another planet and returned 7329 images of Mars surface covering approx 85% of the surface greatly increasing our understanding of Mars.
  • Name:  Mariner 10
  • Mission Type & Destination:  Flyby, Venus & Mercury (x 3)
  • Launch Date:  November 3rd 1973
  • Arrival Date:  Venus - February 5th 1974, Mercury – March 29th 1974
  • Current Location:  Heliocentric orbit (orbiting the Sun)
  • Points of Note:  Mariner 10 was the first to use a gravity assist trajectory (via Venus), the first spacecraft to encounter two planets at close range, the first to reach the Planet Mercury and for 33 years the only spacecraft to visit Mercury until NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft.
 
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