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How Historic First Mission to Mars Area … Completed in a Crash Landing

RCL Exclusive Seven and forty years ago today, the first artificial spacecraft reached Mars. Only things did not go exactly…

RCL Exclusive

Seven and forty years ago today, the first artificial spacecraft reached Mars. Only things did not go exactly as planned.

The interplanetary introduction came with permission from the Soviet Union, which a few months earlier had completed the so-called Project M-71. The initiative consisted of sending a satellite and two unmanned spacecraft to the Mars satellite to route the red planet and gather data so that the other two can land safely on their surface for the first time in history.


971, the pressure was on the Soviet spacecraft after an American took the first steps on the moon in 1969 and two previous missile launches of Soviets that same year ended in disaster – all complicating the basic difficulty of the task at hand.

“Sending a spacecraft to a remote plane and getting it into an unknown atmosphere and landing on a badly known surface was a commitment of another size,” said Lev Muhkin, then deputy director of the East West Space Science Center, in the forward direction to a 1999 history of Mars exploration, written by Soviet spacecraft designer VG Perminov. “But with each new failure, new experience was achieved, and with each successive attempt, the goal was closer.”

The Soviet Union. Mars Iii, the spatial vehicle sent to Mars in the seventies. (Photo of Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

When the launch date came about in May 1971, Perminov said that he and his team looked “nervous.” This time the rockets did it outer atmosphere successful, but the first problems became clear when one of the engine blocks was ignored in time.

“An analysis showed that the operator had made a mistake,” wrote Perminov. ” He issued an eight digit code command to the spacecraft control system to enable block D for the second time in reverse order. It was a human factor, not technology, which was responsible for the error.

The failure would have consequences millions of miles later.

The failed engine was partially designed to send the satellite to its Mars mapping,

The mission continued with the rocket raising of the two spacecraft, called March 2 and March 3, “Operat [ing] Perfect.” (March 1 was part of a failed Soviet Mars mission almost a decade earlier and disappeared somewhere in the million-mile journey between the planets.)

Since June, the spacecraft spent months on the trip, Perminov received a panic conversation from one of his researchers.

“” Come quickly, “said his disturbing voice.” Communication with both Mars failed last night. Retrieve the team together and fly to Yevpatorija [a control center in Crimea] immediately. “” [19659003] The news that his team arrived proved bleak: Defects in March 2 and March 3 were exactly identical. “The original broadcasters who work in the decimeter band failed first,” Perminov wrote later. ” refter enabled the dual transmitters. In the beginning they worked properly but later failed. A command was given to start the transmitters working in the centimeter band. Telemetry data indicates that centimeter band transmitters were activated and started functioning, but the signals did not come to earth. “

After two days of uninterrupted work, the team could rebuild the spacecraft link, although they still remain stumped about what just caused blackout.” The spacecraft March 2 and 3 continued, “wrote Perminov.

Perminov told us that in November 1971, a few days before the spacecraft approached Mars, there was more bad news.

“In the last few weeks, an unusually strong dust storm covered the entire planet’s plan. Astronomers indicated that such a large dust storm had never been recorded on the Mars surface before, “he wrote.

There was nothing to do about it, so the mission continued. On November 27, Mars 2 Lander made his planned descent. Unfortunately, the in-house computer that the farmer was on the wrong track, tried to correct it and accidentally sent the farmer on a much steeper path than it should have.

Instead of breaking through the atmosphere and popping a big parachute for a mild landing, Mars screamed 2- rowing down through the marsh sky and entering the plane of the planet before its parachute had a chance to distribute at all.

Greetings from the earth.

Fortunately for the Soviets, Mars 3 landers succeeded in a smoother landing.

“Everyone waited impatiently on the information sent from the landlord to the radio system aboard the spacecraft, “wrote Perminov.

After waiting for the current spacecraft to be right position to relay shipments from the farmer, a picture finally came through. “It was a gray background without any details,” wrote Perminov. The dust storm had obviously interfered with the image transmission.

However, the landlord was able to send back some data – for about 20 seconds before it also became dark.


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