Image of Mariner 10
Mariner 10 was launched on Nov. 3, 1973, intended as a flyby of planets Venus and Mercury. It passed Venus in February of 1974, returning over 4000 photographs of the thick cloud cover which surrounds the planet, and information on the atmosphere composition.
Mariner 10 then used the gravitational pull of Venus to accelerate itself toward Mercury, becoming the first spacecraft to visit that planet, on March 29, 1974. During the next year, two more flybys were possible, at an altitude as low as 705 kilometers (438 miles). They produced a total of 10,000 images, revealing a heavily-cratered landscape similar to that on our Moon, and mapped 57% of the Mercury's surface.
The Mariner 10 mission developed many complications and several course corrections were necessary. It became the first spacecraft to use its solar panels as sails, riding the solar wind to conserve energy. Today, the last Mariner installment is in a solar orbit, no longer transmitting.
You might also be interested in:
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was one of the most important exploration tools of the past two decades, and will continue to serve as a great resource well into the new millennium. The HST is credited...more
Driven by a recent surge in space research, the Apollo program hoped to add to the accomplishments of the Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor missions of the late 1960's. Apollo 11 was the first mission to succeed...more
Apollo 12 survived a lightning strike during its launch on Nov. 14, 1969, and arrived at the Moon three days later. Astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean descended to the surface, while Richard Gordon...more
Apollo 15 marked the start of a new series of missions from the Apollo space program, each capable of exploring more lunar terrain than ever before. Launched on July 26, 1971, Apollo 15 reached the Moon...more
NASA chose Deep Impact to be part of a special series called the Discovery Program on July 7, 1999. In May 2001, Deep Impact was given the "go" from NASA to start with mission development. Deep Impact...more
The Galileo spacecraft was launched on October 19, 1989. Galileo had two parts: an orbiter and a descent probe that parachuted into Jupiter's atmosphere. Galileo's primary mission was to explore the Jovian...more
During 1966 through 1967, five identical Lunar Orbiter spacecrafts were launched, with the purpose of mapping the Moon's surface and finding smooth, level terrain, in preparation for the Apollo and Surveyor...more