Two Mariner spacecraft are poised at Cape Kennedy, Florida, for a flight very soon that is intended to take them around the planet Mars.
Two Mariner spacecraft are poised at Cape Kennedy, Florida, for a flight very soon that is intended to take them around the planet Mars. They will be launched a day or two apart from Pads 12 and 13.
Only once every 25 months do the planets orbit into a position where it is possible to send spacecraft from earth to Mars. Such a period lasting only 29 days, starts early this month (November). If the flight succeeds, the spacecraft will fly by Mars, passing within several thousand miles in July of 1965.
The spacecraft must travel further and operate longer than any previous mission up to 350 million miles to reach Mars on a trip of eight or nine months. As they fly by Mars, the communication distance back to earth is about 150 million miles, compared with 36 million for the Mariner II Venus mission.
Engineering and scientific data will be relayed to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Pasadena, California by deep space tracking stations at Goldstone, California; Woomers, Australia, and Johannesburg, South Africa. They will maintain two-way communications between earth and the spacecraft. A single television camera on each spacecraft will make up to 22 photographs of the Martian surface. By taking a trajectory that goes behind Mars they may also obtain data on the density of the atmosphere there.
This is the first U.S. attempt to explore areas farther from the sun than from the earth. It involves many new techniques.