…and Mariner too

Mariner 2 at Venus

Launched on this date 50 years ago today: Mariner 2, the first man-made probe to successfully reach another planet (in this case, Venus, after a three-and-a-half-month cruise during which Mariner 2 kept trying to fall apart). There were no cameras on board, only experiments to determine Venus’ cloudtop temperatures and magnetic field; simply getting Mariner 2 to another planet in one piece was a major accomplishment. (Mariner 1, also destined for Venus, had to be blown up shortly after launch because of booster failure; it failed to leave Earth’s atmosphere in one piece.)

In fifty years, we’ve gone from “hey, let’s chuck some very lightly-instrumented space probes at Venus and see if they even get there” to “hey, let’s sky-crane something about the size of a Jeep onto Mars and then remote-control it to climb a mountain.”

Now imagine what we could be seeing 50 years from now if NASA was properly funded.

Image done in 3DS Max with a well-worn ultraviolet image of Venus (ironically, from the much later Pioneer Venus orbiter in 1978) as the background; as usual, everything was messed about with in Paint Shop Pro.

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