Mariner program

Launch of Mariner 1 in 1962

The Mariner program was a 10-mission program conducted by the American space agency NASA in conjunction with Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).[1] The program launched a series of robotic interplanetary probes, from 1962 to 1973, designed to investigate Mars, Venus and Mercury.[2] The program included a number of firsts, including the first planetary flyby, the first planetary orbiter, and the first gravity assist maneuver.

Of the ten vehicles in the Mariner series, seven were successful, forming the starting point for many subsequent NASA/JPL space probe programs. The planned Mariner Jupiter-Saturn vehicles were adapted into the Voyager program,[3] while the Viking program orbiters were enlarged versions of the Mariner 9 spacecraft. Later Mariner-based spacecraft include the Magellan probe and the Galileo probe, while the second-generation Mariner Mark II series evolved into the Cassini–Huygens probe.

The total cost of the Mariner program was approximately $554 million.[4]

The name of the Mariner program was decided in "May 1960-at the suggestion of Edgar M. Cortright" to have the "planetary mission probes ... patterned after nautical terms, to convey 'the impression of travel to great distances and remote lands.'" That "decision was the basis for naming Mariner, Ranger, Surveyor, and Viking probes."[5]

Basic layout

This 1963 photo shows Dr. William H. Pickering, (center) JPL Director, presenting a Mariner 2 spacecraft model to President John F. Kennedy, (right). NASA Administrator James Webb is standing directly behind the Mariner model

All Mariner spacecraft were based on a hexagonal or octagonal "bus", which housed all of the electronics, and to which all components were attached, such as antennae, cameras, propulsion, and power sources.[2][6] Mariner 2 was based on the Ranger Lunar probe. All of the Mariners launched after Mariner 2 had four solar panels for power, except for Mariner 10, which had two. Additionally, all except Mariner 1, Mariner 2 and Mariner 5 had TV cameras.

The first five Mariners were launched on Atlas-Agena rockets, while the last five used the Atlas-Centaur. All Mariner-based probes after Mariner 10 used the Titan IIIE, Titan IV unmanned rockets or the Space Shuttle with a solid-fueled Inertial Upper Stage and multiple planetary flybys.


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