LOOKING BACK THE SKY AT NIGHT 20 March 1963
The Sky at Night
In the episode of broadcast on 20 March 1963, Patrick Moore discussed Mariner 2, which had recently performed the first ever flyby of another planet.
Though both the Soviet Union and NASA had sent previous missions to Venus, Mariner 2 was the first to succeed when it flew past the planet on 14 December 1962. Not much was known about Venus beforehand, as its thick clouds hid the surface from view. It was thought the world, which is similar in size to Earth, might hide verdant rainforests, but Mariner 2 quickly obliterated this notion when it found average surface temperatures were around 500ºC – hot enough to melt lead.
Mariner 2 also examined the planet’s magnetosphere and some of its interactions with the solar wind, but it would be the Soviet Venera programme, which sent 16 missions to Venus, that would really give our first window through the clouds to view our closest planetary neighbour.
Mariner 2’s flyby of Venus was the hot topic in March 1963