Mariner 10

Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft sent to study Mercury. Mariner 10 also studied Venus while using the planet's gravity to modify its speed and trajectory, enabling it to reach Mercury.
  • Launch Date: Nov. 3, 1973
  • Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA
  • Destination: Mercury, Venus
  • Type: Flyby
  • Status: Successful
  • Country: USA
  • Alternate Names: 1973-085A, Mariner-J, Mariner Venus/Mercury 73, 06919
Mariner 10 was the only mission to Mercury until NASA's MESSENGER mission more than 30 years later. On its way to Mercury, Mariner 10 became the first spacecraft to use the gravity of one planet (in this case, Venus) to reach another. This has become an extremely important technique. While flying by Venus, the spacecraft took ultraviolet pictures that revealed great bands of clouds, providing data on atmospheric circulation which included upper-atmosphere wind speeds of 300 km/hr.

During three flybys of Mercury, Mariner 10 photographed half the planet's moonlike surface and transmitted data indicating a surprising magnetic field, a metallic core comprising about 80 percent of the planet's mass and temperatures ranging from 187 degrees Celsius on the dayside to -183 degrees Celsius on the nightside.

This photo identifies the spacecraft's science instruments, which were used to study the atmospheric, surface and physical characteristics of Venus and Mercury. This was the sixth in the series of Mariner spacecraft that explored the inner planets beginning in 1962. 

Important Timeline
  • Nov. 3, 1973: Launch
  • Feb. 5. 1974: Venus Encounter
  • Mar. 29, 1974: Mercury Flyby 1
  • Sept. 21, 1974: Mercury Flyby 2
  • Mar. 16, 1975: Mercury Flyby 3
  • Launch Vehicle: Atlas-Centaur
  • Spacecraft Mass: 474 kilograms
Spacecraft Instruments:
  • imaging system
  • infrared radiometer
  • ultraviolet airglow spectrometer
  • ultraviolet occultation spectrometer
  • two magnetometers
  • charged-particle telescope
  • plasma analyzer

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