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Solar System Exploration
Mariner 9
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Mariner 09
Mariner 9 Mission to Mars

Goals: When Mariner 8 suffered a failed launch, Mariner 9 took on that spacecraft's mission of mapping 70 percent of the Martian surface in addition to its own objective of studying changes over time in the Martian atmosphere and surface.

Accomplishments: Mariner 9 beat the Soviet Mars 2 (which had an 11-day head start) to Mars, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet. After Mars' global dust storm subsided, the orbiter was able to map 85 percent of the Martian surface at a resolution of 1 to 2 km (with 2 percent mapped at a resolution of 100 to 300 meters) in addition to gathering abundant information about the surface and atmosphere. The more than 7,000 images it transmitted included the first detailed views of Olympus Mons, the solar system's largest volcano; Valles Marineris, a vast canyon system that dwarfs the Grand Canyon and was named for this spacecraft; the polar caps; and the moons Phobos and Deimos.

Key Dates
30 May 1971:  Launch
14 Nov 1971:  Mars Orbit Insertion
Status: Successful
Fast Facts
Mariner 09 Facts Mariner 9 was the first spacecraft to orbit another planet. Though launched 11 days after the U.S.S.R.'s Mars 2, it arrived at Mars 13 days earlier than the Soviet spacecraft.

It was the first spacecraft to detect water vapor on Mars (over the south pole).

Mariner 9 pictures were used to select landing sites for the two Viking missions (above) of the mid-1970s.
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Last Updated: 16 Feb 2012