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Mariner 6 and 7

Mariner 6
Operator NASA
Major contractors Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Mission type Flyby
Launch date February 24, 1969 at 01:29:02 UTC[1]
Launch vehicle Atlas-Centaur SLV-3C launch vehicle
Flyby of Mars
COSPAR ID 1969-014A
Mass 411.8 kg (908 lb)
Power 449 W
Mariner 7
Operator NASA
Major contractors Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Mission type Flyby
Launch date March 27, 1969 at 22:22:01 UTC[2]
Launch vehicle Atlas-Centaur SLV-3C launch vehicle
Flyby of Mars
COSPAR ID 1969-030A
Mass 411.8 kg (908 lb)
Power 449 W

As part of NASA's wider Mariner program, Mariner 6 and Mariner 7 (Mariner Mars 69A and Mariner Mars 69B) completed the first dual mission to Mars in 1969. Mariner 6 was launched from Launch Complex 36B at Cape Kennedy[3] and Mariner 7 from Launch Complex 36A at Cape Kennedy.[2] The craft flew over the equator and south polar regions, analyzing the atmosphere and the surface with remote sensors, and recording and relaying hundreds of pictures. The mission's goals were to study the surface and atmosphere of Mars during close flybys, in order to establish the basis for future investigations, particularly those relevant to the search for extraterrestrial life, and to demonstrate and develop technologies required for future Mars missions. Mariner 6 also had the objective of providing experience and data which would be useful in programming the Mariner 7 encounter 5 days later.


  • Spaceflight 1
    • Science data and findings 1.1
  • Spacecraft and subsystems 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


On July 29, 1969, less than a week before closest approach, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) lost contact with Mariner 7. The center regained the signal via the backup low-gain antenna and regained use of the high gain antenna again shortly after Mariner 6's close encounter. Leaking gases from a battery (which later failed) were thought to have caused the anomaly.[2] Based on the observations that Mariner 6 made, Mariner 7 was reprogrammed in flight to take further observations of areas of interest and actually returned more pictures than Mariner 6, despite the battery's failure.[4]

Closest approach for Mariner 6 occurred July 31, 1969, at 05:19:07 UT[3] at a distance of 3,431 kilometres (2,132 mi)[3] above the martian surface. Closest approach for Mariner 7 occurred August 5, 1969 at 05:00:49 UT[2] at a distance of 3,430 kilometres (2,130 mi) above the martian surface. This was less than half of the distance used by Mariner 4 on the previous US Mars flyby mission.[4]

Both spacecraft are now defunct in heliocentric orbits.[4]

Science data and findings

By chance, both spacecraft flew over cratered regions and missed both the giant northern volcanoes and the equatorial grand canyon discovered later. Their approach pictures did, however, photograph about 20 percent of the planet's surface,[4] showing the dark features long seen from Earth, but none of the canals mistakenly observed by ground-based astronomers. In total 201 photos were taken and transmitted back to Earth, adding more detail than the earlier mission, Mariner 4.[4] Both craft also studied the atmosphere of Mars.

The ultraviolet spectrometer onboard Mariners 6 and 7 was constructed by University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).

The engineering model of Mariners 6 and 7 still exists, and is owned by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It is on loan to LASP, and is on display in the lab's lobby.

Spacecraft and subsystems

The Mariner 6 and 7 spacecraft were identical, consisting of an octagonal magnesium frame base, 138.4 cm (54.5 in) diagonally and 45.7 cm (18.0 in) deep. A conical superstructure mounted on top of the frame held the high-gain 1 meter diameter parabolic antenna and four solar panels, each measuring 215 x 90 cm (35 in), were affixed to the top corners of the frame. The tip-to-tip span of the deployed solar panels was 5.79 m. A low-gain omnidirectional antenna was mounted on a 2.23 m high mast next to the high-gain antenna. Underneath the octagonal frame was a two-axis scan platform which held scientific instruments. Overall science instrument mass was 57.6 kg (127 lb). The total height of the spacecraft was 3.35 m.

The spacecraft was attitude stabilized in three axes, referenced to the sun and the star Canopus. It utilized 3 gyros, 2 sets of 6 nitrogen jets, which were mounted on the ends of the solar panels, a Canopus tracker, and two primary and four secondary sun sensors. Propulsion was provided by a 223-newton rocket motor, mounted within the frame, which used the mono-propellant hydrazine. The nozzle, with 4-jet vane vector control, protruded from one wall of the octagonal structure. Power was supplied by 17,472 photovoltaic cells, covering an area of 7.7 square meters (83 sq ft) on the four solar panels. These could provide 800 watts of power near Earth, and 449 watts while at Mars. The maximum power requirement was 380 watts, once Mars was reached. A 1200 watt-hour, rechargeable, silver-zinc battery was used to provide backup power. Thermal control was achieved through the use of adjustable louvers on the sides of the main compartment.

Three telemetry channels were available for telecommunications. Channel A carried engineering data at 8⅓ or 33⅓ bit/s, channel B carried scientific data at 66⅔ or 270 bit/s and channel C carried science data at 16,200 bit/s. Communications were accomplished through the high- and low-gain antennas, via dual S-band traveling wave tube amplifiers, operating at 10 or 20 watts, for transmission. The design also included a single receiver. An analog tape recorder, with a capacity of 195 million bits, could store television images for subsequent transmission. Other science data was stored on a digital recorder. The command system, consisting of a central computer and sequencer (CC&S), was designed to actuate specific events at precise times. The CC&S was programmed with both a standard mission and a conservative backup mission before launch, but could be commanded and reprogrammed in flight. It could perform 53 direct commands, 5 control commands, and 4 quantitative commands.


  1. IR Spectrometer
  2. Two-Channel IR Radiometer Mars Surface Temperature
  3. UV Spectrometer
  4. S-Band Occultation
  5. Thermal Control Flux Monitor (Conical Radiometer)
  6. Mars TV Camera
  7. Celestial Mechanics
  8. General Relativity

See also


  1. ^ "Mariner 6: Trajectory Details". National Space Science Data Center. Retrieved December 28, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Mariner 7: Details". National Space Science Data Center. Retrieved December 28, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "Mariner 6: Details". National Space Science Data Center. Retrieved December 28, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Pyle, Rod (2012). Destination Mars. Prometheus Books. pp. 61–66.  

External links

  • Mariner Mars 1969 Launches - Press Kit
  • Tracking and data system support for the Mariner Mars 1969 mission. Volume 1 - Planning phase through midcourse maneuver
  • Tracking and data system support for the Mariner Mars 1969 mission. Volume 2: Midcourse maneuver through end of nominal mission
  • Tracking and data system support for the Mariner Mars 1969 mission. Volume 3: Extended operations mission
  • The Mariner 6 and 7 flight paths and their determination from tracking data
  • Two over Mars - Mariner 6 and Mariner 7, February - August 1969
  • Mariner 6 Mission Profile by NASA's Solar System Exploration
  • Mariner 7 Mission Profile by NASA's Solar System Exploration
  • Mariner 6 and 7 Data Set Information (highly technical)
  • Mariner 6 and 7 Data Viewer Page (includes many images)
  • Page with reprocessed Mariner 7 images
  • Mariner 6 and 7 images
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