The Sky at Night

Sky at Night Magazine - - BULLETIN -

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

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