The scientific tourist #139 — Mariner 10

This week’s image is a scan of a slide I took at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory back in the summer of 1989 — it’s a model of the Mariner 10 spacecraft:

Mariner 10 (1973) model

Mariner 10 was launched on November 3, 1973 and flew by the planets Venus (once) and Mercury (3 times). While it returned interesting and useful science information, historically it may well have been most useful in that it was the first spacecraft to make use of an interplanetary gravity assist (a.k.a., gravitational slingshot). This approach was first considered by the italian mathematician Giuseppe Colombo (better known by his nickname Bepi Colombo), and Michael Minovitch — and it opened much of the solar system to exploration by greatly reducing the amount of propellant needed on interplanetary missions.

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