Lost in the glare following the Apollo 11 Moon landing, two intrepid robotic spacecraft flew by Mars in the summer of 1969 and returned photographs and a trove of scientific information.

Launched on Feb. 25 and March 27, respectively, Mariner 6 and 7 arrived at Mars just five days apart despite being launched a month apart. After a flight of 156 days from Earth, Mariner 6 flew within 2,132 miles of Mars on July 31, roughly twice as close as Mariner 4’s flyby in 1965. Controllers lost contact with Mariner 7 for seven hours just five days before its planned flyby, but by Aug. 2, after quick replanning, they restored the spacecraft to full capability as it began its encounter with Mars. Three days later, it passed within 2,130 miles of Mars’ southern hemisphere. Both spacecraft flew behind the planet and a radio occultation experiment measured the surface pressure of the Martian atmosphere to be between 6 and 7 mb, or less than 10% of Earth’s atmosphere at sea level. After their successfully flybys, Mariner 6 and 7 sailed on into solar orbit.

Image Credit: NASA


“水手6号”和“水手7号”分别于2月25日和3月27日发射,尽管相隔一个月发射,但它们抵达火星的时间只相差五天。7月31日,经过156天的飞行,“水手6号”在距离火星2132英里的范围内飞行,大约是1965年“水手4号”飞越火星距离的两倍。就在“水手7号”计划飞越火星的五天前,控制人员与它失去了7个小时的联系,但到了8月2日,经过快速的重新规划,与火星相遇时他们恢复了飞船的全部能力。三天后,它经过距离火星南半球2130英里的地方。两艘宇宙飞船都在火星后面飞行,一个无线电掩星实验测量到火星大气的表面压力在6到7 mb之间,不到地球大气海平面的10%。在成功的飞行后,“水手6号”和“水手7号”进入了太阳轨道。


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