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Though the flights of Mariner 6 and 7 were successful in fulfilling the objectives of their mission, the data provided was only a brief glimpse of the surface of Mars. To obtain more information would require scores of suchflybys. As an alternative the JPL planned to place an advanced Mariner in permanent orbit around the planet. JPL decided that two identical craft would be launched. Their missions would be separate but complimentary.

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Mariner 9 Launch

Mariner 8 would be launched on 9 May 1971, as primarily a means of mapping the planet, send back to Earth some 5400 pictures and spectral data during the 90 day orbit, (at an altitude of 1250 km). The second craft (Mariner 9) would be launched on 18 May 1971, and it was felt would allow a high resolution coverage at an altitude of 850 km. Both craft also measure the surface pressure of the atmosphere, search for concentration of ozone and study the composition, structure and dynamic of the upper atmosphere of the planet. On 9 May Mariner 8 was launched but a malfunction  in the guidance system of the Centaur rocket, caused the craft to tumble. Mariner 8 crashed into the sea 560 km northwest of Puerto Rico.

After the loss of the spacecraft JPL Project personnel set to work to redesign the Mariner 9 mission so that it would  incorporate  the major objectives of both missions. Twenty-one days later, Mariner 9 was successfully launched to Mars.

In 173 days Mariner 9 traveled 394.000.000 km, and arrived at its destination carring 68 kg of scientific instruments. It took 7329 pictures and gathered other amazing data.

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Mariner 9 Mars Orbit

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Mariner Mars 1971 Spacecraft

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The Television cameras

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Photo in Real Time Computer

For the first time the scientist can sow dormant volcanoes, including one that was three time the size of Hawaii's Mauna Loa, its biggest terrestrial competitor.

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Mars' spectacular 15,5 mile-high volcano Olympus Mons, appears beneath the arrow, in this Mars map made possible by Mariner 9 pictures.

The face of the planet was scarred with a 8 km deep canyon that would strech for 4800 km, the entire continental United States. Even more startling were numerous smoller channels, resembling terrestrial riverbeds , that appeared to have to have been gouged by the action of the water. Not at all the spectrometer reading discovered traces of water in the atmosphere, with all of its implication for the presence of life!

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Photo Gallery

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