Mariner 4 Mission
Mariner 4, which was the fourth in an unmanned flyby series of space exploration planned for eventual deep space exploration in a unmanned mode, made history. It was designed primarily to perform close-orbit science experiments on Mars and to relay these findings back to Earth for analysis by scientists and researchers. Mariner 4 also carried out contingency operations, such as rendezvous maneuvers with the U.S. space shuttle, during its nominal flight of only six days. The design of Mariner 4 did not carry out the rendezvous; it stayed in orbit until it was struck by debris during reentry.
Mariner 4 left Earth on July 5th, 1965, having flown by only the first of its twelve unmanned exploratory missions. Its target was Mars, the next human destination. NASA administrator Waltck realized right away that this would be a difficult task. Seven years before, on the other hand, America had successfully landed astronauts on the moon. Despite the many hurdles, Mariner 4 made its closest approach to Mars on July 3rd, 1965.
Mariner 4 had a total payload of only ninety pounds (52.4 kilograms). It was the largest and most expensive of all U.S. manned spaceflights to that point. Although this was not the final trip to Mars, the spacecraft did make the first and only successful soft landing. The spacecraft survived, however, only thirty-two seconds of additional burn time. This was deemed satisfactory by NASA and Mariner 4 was immediately withdrawn from service.
Two weeks later, Mariner 4 underwent another successful launch and this time, the spacecraft reached orbit around the moon, which it was meant to do. Despite an automated checkout by the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet, the launch failure occurred again. This time, the cause turned out to be a problem with one of the solid rocket boosters. All further attempts to launch the vehicle failed as well. This marked the end of the Mariner program.
Fourteen short weeks later, the third Mariner put into orbit around the planet, and again, performed an effective occultation science survey. During this survey, the U.S. Magellan telescope located in the inner solar system picked up unusual signals emanating from the far side of the planet. One of these signals was an asteroid that had passed within 7.5 Astronomical units (a distance equal to the sun's orbital radius). With this information, the U.S. Magellan probe could determine that the asteroid was probably made out of water. This discovery marked the beginning of the third World Wide Web Gemini Spacecraft and the U.S. Gemini Program.
The fourth and final Mariner put into orbit around the planet, and although it didn't find any life, it did report a lot of strange phenomena, including radio and plasma emission, radial wind intensity, and the presence of clouds of high altitude dust. These experiments provided valuable data for scientists all over the world. As the dust clouds cleared up, and the planet became more interesting to NASA officials, they began planning another fly by of Mars. In September, the Mariner 4 manned spaceflight reached Mars and performed an occultation science investigation, which concentrated on the zones where liquid water can exist.
The Mariner 4 crewed lander was successfully inserted into orbit around Mars, and while it stayed there for only three days, it produced many great achievements throughout the early American space program. It became the first " manned operation" to land a spacecraft on the surface of Mars. NASA called this "the greatest success in NASA's history". The Mariner 4 mission also paved the way for many other missions to come. Many of these missions to Mars, such as Mariner 4, are still active today.
One interesting aspect of the Mariner 4 landing is the fact that it launched from the middle of the Earth, or at least it was launched within an Earth gravity environment. Mariner 4 actually traveled through a tunnel, or a slipway, in order to reach Mars. This was a big step for NASA, because if this had been a regular space flight, it would have been impossible to get it to land on the Red Planet. However, the Mariner 4 mission launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, which was not an easy thing to do, or so it was planned. Of course, today we know much better how to land a spacecraft on Mars, and this particular achievement has been described by many famous people as one of the greatest moments in the history of space travel.