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pressurized interior with nitrogen otmosphere to distribute heat evenly

Sun and star detectors lor guidance and stabilization solar panels charge onboard batteries


Far more sophisticated than any previous space probe, Venera 1 stood 2m (6 ft ft) tall, weighed some 643.5kg (l,416lb), and incorporated a variety of scientific instruments.

pressurized interior with nitrogen otmosphere to distribute heat evenly

television camera i

\ hydrazine propulsion unit


Mariner 4 used four large solar panels to gather energy from the Sun. Vanes on the end stabilized the croft against pressure from the solar wind, and the body contained a variety of experiments.

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Aside from its Pioneer probes, NASA was lagging behind Soviet efforts, and missed the 1960 and 1961 launch windows. By the following year, however, the Americans were ready to launch the first wave of their own armada to the planets - the Mariner probes. Both sides followed a deliberate policy of building probes in pairs so that two could be sent in the same launch window. But while the Soviets found this just doubled their failure rate, for NASA the story was "second time lucky".

So when Venus-bound Mariner 1 was destroyed after its launch vehicle (based on the Atlas ICBM) veered off course, Mariner 2 was ready to go in a matter of weeks - and this time, finally, everything went right for an interplanetary probe. Three-and-a-half months later, Mariner 2 made the first flyby of

Venus and, although its instruments were relatively simple, it revealed that the planet has a baking surface, a dense, choking atmosphere, and a rotation period (243 Earth days) longer than its year.

At the next close approach of Mars, history repeated itself. Mariner 3 failed to leave Earth orbit after its protective shroud jammed, but on 28 November 1964, Mariner 4 launched perfectly. After a seven-month flight, the probe flew past Mars on 14 July 1965, coming within 10,000km (6,000 miles) of the Red Planet. It sent back 21 precious pictures of the surface and revealed that Mars lacks a magnetic field and had a much thinner atmosphere than expected.

Throughout the 1960s, the Mariner probes continued to deliver for NASA - Mariner 5 would fly past Venus in 1967, and Mariners 6 and 7 made close flybys of Mars in July and August 1969. The Soviets, meanwhile, had to endure a long learning curve before their Venera probes began to produce results (see p.260).



Less glamorous than the planetary probes, but just as scientifically important, were the Pioneer probes launched by NASA through the 1960s. The first were relatively simple probes that targeted the Moon (as shown here), but in March 1960 Pioneer 5 was deliberately sent into orbit around the Sun between the orbits of Earth and Venus. For the first time, this gave NASA experience in communicating with a spacecraft over interplanetary distances, and the probe paved the way for Pioneers 6 through 9. These more sophisticated probes, launched between December 1965 and November 1968, were designed to operate for up to 180 days each, but actually operated for years, allowing scientists to monitor t 1 conditions across the inner Solar System.














The French CNES space agency is established.

26 April 1962

Ariel 1, a US-built satellite carrying British experiments, is launched.


The British government approves development of the Black Arrow satellite launcher.

26 November 1965

France successfully launches the A-1 Astérix satellite, powered by a Diamant A rocket.

6 December 1965

A NASA Scout rocket launches the French FR 1 scientific satellite.

28 June 1969

The first test launch of Britain's Black Arrow ends in failure.

10 March 1970

Following development of the launch centre at Kourou, French Guiana, France launches the first Diamant B rocket.

29 July 1971

Britain announces the cancellation of Black Arrow.

28 October 1971

The last flight of Black Arrow successfully orbits Britain's Prospero satellite.

4 April 1972

A Soviet rocket launches the French-built SRET satellite.

Britain and France in space

As the Space Race between the superpowers gathered pace, other countries began to recognize the importance of an independent launch capability. First among these were Britain and France, but the two space programmes would develop in very different directions.

Britain and France both inherited small parts of the German V-2 legacy at the end of the Second World War, and enthusiastic engineers (many of whom had started out in rocket societies) were soon at work replicating and learning from the technology. As with the superpower space programmes, these projects were staffed by space enthusiasts, even if they were driven by military priorities.

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