Monday, November 28, 2016

Mariner 4, first spacecraft to fly past Mars, launched 1965

Mariner 4, launched November 28, 1965, was the first spacecraft to perform a flyby past Mars, answering the burning questions about life on the Red Planet.

It was the first spacecraft to navigate using the stars, like mariners did in old times.  Mariner 4 sent back data at a staggering, blistering speed of 8 1/2 bytes/minute!  While they waited, scientists used pastel set to color paint-by-number style the first images from Mars.  Its signals helped scientists determine the Red Planet had a thin atmosphere.

The wait was worth it as Mariner 4 took the first photos of the surface of Mars on July 14-15, 1965, passing within 9,846 km from the surface of Mars.  Communications were terminated with the spacecraft on December 21, 1967.

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