Mariner 9 departs for Mars - HISTORY
Year
1971

Mariner 9 departs for Mars

The U.S. unmanned space probe Mariner 9 is launched on a mission to gather scientific information on Mars, the fourth planet from the sun. The 1,116-pound spacecraft entered the planet’s orbit on November 13, 1971, and circled Mars twice each day for almost a year, photographing the surface and analyzing the atmosphere with infrared and ultraviolet instruments. It gathered data on the atmospheric composition, density, pressure, and temperature of Mars, and also information about the surface composition, temperature, and topography of the planet.

When Mariner 9 first arrived, Mars was almost totally obscured by dust storms, which persisted for a month. However, after the dust cleared, Mariner 9 proceeded to reveal a very different planet–one that boasted enormous volcanoes and a gigantic canyon stretching 3,000 miles across its surface. The spacecraft’s cameras also recorded what appeared to be dried riverbeds, suggesting the ancient presence of water and perhaps life on the planet. The first spacecraft to orbit a planet other than earth, Mariner 9 sent back more than 7,000 pictures of the “Red Planet” and succeeded in photographing the entire planet. Mariner 9 also sent back the first close-up images of the Martian moon. Its transmission ended on October 27, 1972.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Republic of Biafra proclaimed

After suffering through years of suppression under Nigeria’s military government, the breakaway state of Biafra proclaims its independence from Nigeria.In 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Six years later, the Muslim Hausas in northern Nigeria began massacring the ...read more

Andrew Jackson wins duel

In Logan County, Kentucky, future president Andrew Jackson participates in a duel, killing Charles Dickinson, a lawyer regarded as one of the best pistol shots in the area.The proud and volatile Jackson, a former senator and representative of Tennessee, called for the duel after ...read more

Joan of Arc martyred

At Rouen in English-controlled Normandy, Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who became the savior of France, is burned at the stake for heresy.Joan was born in 1412, the daughter of a tenant farmer at Domremy, on the borders of the duchies of Bar and Lorraine. In 1415, the Hundred ...read more

U.S. aircraft carry out new raids

In the largest raids since air attacks on North Vietnam began in February 1965, U.S. planes destroy five bridges, 17 railroad cars, and 20 buildings in the Thanh Hoa and Vinh areas (100 and 200 miles south of Hanoi, respectively). Others planes hit Highway 12 in four places north ...read more

First Indianapolis 500 is run

On May 30, 1911, the inaugural Indianapolis 500 is run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana. The 200-lap, two-and-a-half mile race has since become a Memorial Day weekend tradition. With the exception of a break in 1917 and 1918 for World War I and from 1942 to 1945 for ...read more

Pearl Hart holds up an Arizona stagecoach

On this day, the amateur bandit Pearl Hart and her boyfriend hold up an Arizona stagecoach.Little is known about Pearl Hart’s early life. She was born in Petersborough, Ontario, in 1871, and moved to Toronto as a child. She eloped when she was 16, but her husband abused her and ...read more

Christopher Marlowe killed in tavern brawl

Playwright Christopher Marlowe, 29, is killed in a brawl over a bar tab on this day.Marlowe, born two months before William Shakespeare, was the son of a Canterbury shoemaker. A bright student, he won scholarships to prestigious schools and earned his B.A. from Cambridge in 1584. ...read more

Sex and the City movie released

On this day in 2008, the film version of HBO’s iconic comedy series Sex and the City, starring Sarah Jessica Parker,premieres in more than 3,200 theaters around the country and goes on to become a big box-office success.The Sex and the City TV series, which debuted some 10 years ...read more

Waters of Kentucky River peak

On this day in 1927, the Kentucky River peaks during a massive flood that kills 89 people and leaves thousands homeless. Torrential rains caused this unprecedented flood. An account from the Mountain Eagle newspaper out of Whitesburg, Kentucky, in Letcher County, provides a ...read more

Gorbachev arrives in Washington for summit

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrives in Washington, D.C., for three days of talks with President George Bush. The summit meeting centered on the issue of Germany and its place in a changing Europe.When Gorbachev arrived for this second summit meeting with President Bush, his ...read more

Confederates evacuate Corinth, Mississippi

On this day, the Confederates abandon the city of Corinth, Mississippi. After the epic struggle at Shiloh, Tennessee, in April 1862, the Confederate army, under the command of P.T. Beauregard, concentrated at Corinth, while the Union army, under Henry Halleck, began a slow ...read more