First Generation Mars
By Charles S. Sheldon II [1917-1981], was Chief of the Science Policy Research Division of the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service
1960 Mars Attempts
The Soviet Union until recently had never admitted to any launch attempts which fell short of attaining Earth orbit. The United States in a number of instances has been able to monitor such failures, but on only one occasion has disclosed this knowledge officially (on September 5, 1962 ). On October 10, and again on October 14, I960, the Soviet Union launched a new combination of rockets intended to send payloads to the vicinity of Mars, but neither was successful in reaching even Earth orbit. From their subsequent repetitive use of an orbital launch platform technique for planetary and other missions remote from low Earth orbit, we can imagine how the operation was intended to proceed.
People had been expecting a Soviet Mars attempt at the appropriate astronomical "window" for this launch. Premier Khrushchev timed his arrival in New York at the United Nations accordingly, expecting to be able to announce the flights. A seaman defector from the Soviet ship Baltika, which had brought Khrushchev told reporters that on board the ship was a replica of an advanced spacecraft which was to be put on display if a certain mission were successful. If true, the replica was carried back to the Soviet Union unseen.
1962 Mars Attempts
The window for Mars flights comes about every 25 months, find Soviet launch, attempts were made on October 24. November 1, and 4, 1962. All three reached Earth orbit: the first and third were never acknowledged by the Soviet Union because that is all they did. The flight of October 24 was especially awkward in its implications because it came at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, and it broke into a considerable number of pieces of debris which followed a path bringing these within view of the Alaska BMEWS missile detector system. The first impression might have been one of a massive missile attack against the United States , although the computer must have quickly revealed it was not.
The November 1 launch was the only success in launching a probe (Zond) rocket from the Earth orbiting platform in six 1962 attempts. The AIS (Automatic Interplanetary Station) received the name Mars 1. This payload set a record of active communications with Earth to a distance of about 106 million kilometers on March 21, 1963 , after which, signals ceased. The ship passed Mars at a distance of about 193,000 kilometers in June 1963. This payload had been improved over Venera 1 by raising its weight to 893.5 kilograms, and having a greatly improved "bus" for the instrumentation and more elaborate experiments. In fact, the basic design of this craft became the standard Zond payload for planetary missions as revealed through Zond 3 and Venera 8.
1964 Mars Attempts
The Soviet Union launched Zond 2 toward Mars on November 30, 1964 , and this time acknowledged that it was bound for Mars, which would have been evident to Western astronomers and space trackers anyway. Communications failed some time in April 1965, but the Zond made a close pass by Mars at about 1,500 kilometers on August 6 of that year.
There was a strong likelihood that another Mars attempt was planned for the 1964 window because every other window to Mars and Venus from 1960 on had seen multiple Soviet attempts. It may be that difficulties in the launch preparations delayed the flight beyond the window. In any case, it was not until July 18 1965 that Zond 3 was launched on a trajectory which carried it all the way out to the orbit of Mars. But because the launch was made without reference to a suitable launch window for Mars, that planet was nowhere near the Zond when it achieved that distance. However, as a diagnostic test, Zond 3 also made a flyby of the Moon, passing it at a distance of about 9,200 kilometers. It took 25 pictures of the far side of a quality superior to those of Luna 3 and these were returned to Earth by facsimile a number of times at ever-greater distances, proving the ability of the communications system to do its planetary task. Some signals were still being received when Zond 3 reached the orbital path of Mars.
1. SOVIET SPACE PROGRAMS, 1971-75, OVERVIEW, FACILITIES AND HARDWARE MANNED AND UNMANNED FLIGHT PROGRAMS, BIOASTRONAUTICS CIVIL AND MILITARY APPLICATIONS PROJECTIONS OF FUTURE PLANS, STAFF REPORT , THE COMMITTEE ON AERONAUTICAL AND SPACE .SCIENCES, UNITED STATES SENATE, BY THE SCIENCE POLICY RESEARCH DIVISION CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE, THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, VOLUME – I, AUGUST 30, 1976, GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON : 1976.
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