Mariner 9
November 14, 1971

 

Olympus Mons rises above a dust storm

Olympus Mons rises above a dust storm

 

After a six-month journey through space, Mariner 9 goes into orbit around Mars, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet.

Imaging by the spacecraft's cameras is postponed one month due to a raging dust storm. Once imaging begins, Mariner 9 reveals a very different planet than expected -- one with gigantic volcanoes and a grand canyon stretching 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) across its surface. More surprisingly, the relics of ancient riverbeds are carved in the landscape of this seemingly dry and dusty planet. Mariner 9 exceeds all primary photographic requirements by photo-mapping 100 percent of the planet's surface. The spacecraft also takes the first close-up pictures of the two small, irregular Martian moons: Phobos and Deimos.

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