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solar panels, trajectory, planets, Mariner, Mars

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Mariner, name of a series of ten United States space probes, launched from 1962 to 1973, designed to explore Mercury, Venus, and Mars, the three planets of the inner solar system. Mariner 2, which flew past Venus, was the first probe to reach another planet. Mariner 4 was the first probe to relay data from Mars. Mariner 10 was the first probe to fly past two planets—Venus and Mercury.


All Mariner spacecraft were launched by an Atlas Agena rocket, a military intercontinental ballistic missile. The probes used four solar panels to gather sunlight for electrical power. The orientation and trajectory of the craft were aligned to the positions of either the sun and the earth, or the sun and the bright star Canopus. The probes communicated with scientists and engineers on the earth by continuous radio transmissions.

To measure the temperatures, atmospheric pressures, and chemical compositions of the planets they flew past, the Mariner spacecraft used on-board radiometers, spectrometers, and magnetometers. Television cameras radioed back to scientists on the earth the first close-up photos of these neighboring planets.


Mammana, Dennis L., B.S., M.S.

Resident Astronomer, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Author of "Other Suns. Other Worlds?", "The Night Sky: An Observer's Guide", and "Star Hunters".

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solar panels, trajectory, planets, Mariner, Mars, Spacecraft, sunlight, electrical power, Mercury, probes, orientation, earth, scientists, engineers, positions, series, past, photos, close

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