An attempt to take pictures of empty, black space with Mariner IV's television camera was scrubbed today after the transmission of the first of a series of commands from Earth, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported.
Project officials at JPL said the sequence--designed to obtain picture calibration information to help in the analysis of the Mariner IV pictures of Mars--was halted when a communications problem arose.
The first command, which set in motion the scan platform upon which the TV camera is mounted, was transmitted from the Goldstone, Calif., Station of the Deep Space Network at 3:22 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.
Three additional ground commands returned the spacecraft to its cruise mode after it was realized that a problem existed. It was not immediately known whether the communications difficulty was in the spacecraft or in ground equipment.
The sequence was rescheduled for next Thursday. The pictures of space will be recorded on the first track of the tape which stored the Mars pictures last July 14 when Mariner IV flew by the planet at an altitude of 6118 miles. The spacecraft will transmit to Earth five full pictures of black space.
If the sequence had been completed Saturday, it is possible that a first magnitude star, Altair, may have been photographed since it was in the field of view of the camera. The star will not be visible to Mariner IV Thursday.
The possibility of obtaining a picture of Altair was considered interesting, but is not a major objective of the calibration sequence.
Mariner has flown 266 days since launch November 28, 1964. It is now more than 164 million miles from Earth, nine million miles from Mars and has traveled more than 370 million miles in its orbit around the sun.
News Media Contact818-354-5011