The Voyage of Mariner 10: Mission to Venus and Mercuryby James A. Dunne
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Rarely in the lifetime of an individual is he privileged to witness and be part of an historic first for mankind. The Mission of Mariner 10 was unique in several ways. It was the first American spacecraft to take photographs of Venus. It was the first to use the gravity and motion of one planet to alter the flight path of a spacecraft and send it to another planet. It was the first to explore the planet Mercury, which was previously but a hazy image in the best Earth-based telescope pictures.
The success of Mariner 10 in attaining and exceeding its goals is attributable to the dedicated effort of the relatively small but exceedingly competent and highly motivated group of men and women from universities, industry, and government who made up the Mariner Venus/ Mercury project team.
Mariner 10 visited Venus once and Mercury three times in a period of a little over 500 days on a voyage of more than a billion kilometers. Shortly after the spacecraft left Earth it was oriented to the Earth and the Moon and returned the first of over 8000 pictures that were taken throughout its trip. These pictures of the Earth and Moon provided a calibration for later pictures of Venus and Mercury.
Even though the spacecraft experienced several serious problems during its trip to Mercury, and its gas supply nearly ran out, it performed its basic job flawlessly, and plans were laid for a return visit to Mercury about 6 months later.
Through the efforts of an ingenious and dedicated operations team the art of "solar sailing" was perfected and the spacecraft's gas usage was greatly reduced, thus permitting not one but two returns to Mercury. These bonus revisits provided additional pictures of Mercury's surface, including a spectacular view of the planet's south pole. The third encounter unequivocally confirmed the existence of Mercury's magnetic field.
This book records the historical details of the Mariner 10 mission from its original concept to its ultimate success. It provides a selection of some of the images obtained by the spacecraft at both Venus and Mercury. Mariner 10 reaped a bountiful harvest of new information about the inner planets of the solar system, information which combined with that from the exploration of other planets may provide us with an increasingly clear view of the origin of our solar system and possibly a clue to its destiny. 222 pages, over 80 photographs and illustrations.
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