Illustration of rocket and spacecraft.

A diagram of the Mariner series of spacecraft and launch vehicle. Mariner spacecraft explored Mercury, Venus and Mars.

Goals: Mariner 1 was the first attempt by the United States to send a spacecraft to Venus. It was to fly by the planet at a distance of about 29,000 km (about 18,000 miles), transmitting a variety of scientific data but no pictures.

Accomplishments: None. A problem with the guidance system shortly after launch made steering impossible and directed the spacecraft toward a crash, possibly in North Atlantic shipping lanes or in an inhabited area. The Range Safety Officer issued a destruct command about 5 minutes after launch, just 6 seconds before the spacecraft would have separated from its booster, after which the launch vehicle could not have been destroyed.

22 Jul 1962: Launch

Mission Type: Flyby
Launch Vehicle: Atlas-Agena B (no. 5 / Atlas D no. 145 / Agena B no. 6901)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States ETR / launch complex 12
NASA Center: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Spacecraft Mass: 202.8 kg
Spacecraft Instruments: 1) microwave radiometer 2) infrared radiometer 3) fluxgate magnetometer 4) cosmic dust detector 5) solar plasma spectrometer and 6) energetic particle detectors
Spacecraft Dimensions: 202.8 kg
Total Cost: Total research, development, launch, and support costs for the Mariner series of spacecraft (Mariners 1 through 10) was approximately $554 million.
Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24, by Asif A. Siddiqi

National Space Science Data Center,

After approval by NASA Headquarters in September 1961, JPL prepared three spacecraft based on the design of the Ranger Block I series (therefore named Mariner R) to fly by Venus in late 1962.

Each spacecraft carried a modest suite (9 kilograms) of scientific instrumentation but had no imaging capability. The spacecraft included 54,000 components and was designed to maintain contact with Earth for 2,500 hours -- an ambitious goal given that the (still unsuccessful) Ranger was designed for only 65 hours of contact.

Mariner 1 would have flown by Venus at a range of 29,000 kilometers on 8 December 1962, but due to an incorrect trajectory during launch, range safety had to destroy the booster and its payload at T+290 seconds.

Mariner 1 News