Mariner 5


Mariner 5 (Mariner Venus 1967) was a spacecraft of the Mariner program that carried a complement of experiments to probe Venus' atmosphere by radio occultation, measure the hydrogen Lyman-alpha (hard ultraviolet) spectrum, and sample the solar particles and magnetic field fluctuations above the planet. Its goals were to measure interplanetary and Venusian magnetic fields, charged particles, plasma, radio refractivity and UV emissions of the Venusian atmosphere.

Mariner 5
Mariner 5.jpg
Mariner 5
Mission typeVenus flyby
OperatorNASA / JPL
COSPAR ID1967-060A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.2845
Mission duration1 year, 4 months (launch to last contact)
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerJet Propulsion Laboratory
Launch mass244.9 kilograms (540 lb)
Power170 W
Start of mission
Launch dateJune 14, 1967, 06:01:00 (1967-06-14UTC06:01Z) UTC
RocketAtlas-SLV3 Agena-D
Launch siteCape Canaveral LC-12
End of mission
Last contactLoss of contact December 4, 1967; briefly regained October 14, 1968[1][2]
Flyby of Venus
Closest approachOctober 19, 1967
Distance3,990 kilometers (2,480 miles)
Ultraviolet Photometer
Two-Frequency Beacon Receiver
S-Band Occultation
Helium-Vector Magnetometer
Solar-Plasma Probe
Trapped Radiation Detector
Launch of Mariner 5


Mariner 5 was actually built as a backup to Mariner 4, but after the success of the Mariner 4 mission, it was modified to be used for a Venus flyby mission to take place during the 1967 Venus launch window. Mariner 5 omitted several experiments from Mariner 4, including the TV camera, the ionization chamber/geiger counter, the cosmic ray detector, and the cosmic dust detector. It retained the helium-vector magnetometer, solar plasma probe, and trapped radiation detector from Mariner 4. Unlike Mariner 4, Mariner 5 needed to face away from the Sun to keep its high-gain antenna pointed at Earth because of its trajectory. As a result, the solar panels were reversed to be aft facing so they could remain pointed at the Sun. Additionally, since its mission to Venus brought it in closer proximity to the Sun, less solar cells were needed to achieve the necessary power generation and as a result the solar panels were reduced in size to save mass as well as to make room for two 50 MHz dual-frequency receiver (DFR) antennas that were mounted on the frame of two of the solar panels. Since the aft side of the spacecraft faced the Sun, the solar plasma probe was relocated to the aft-facing side of Mariner 5.[3]

The mounting for the high-gain antenna also needed modification. Unlike Mariner 4, where the geometry of the transfer orbit allowed for the high-gain antenna to be inclined at a relatively simple 38 degrees from the bottom plane, Mariner 5's trajectory required the high-gain antenna to be skewed at a more awkward angle. The high-gain antenna also included a single-use mechanism that allowed the high-gain antenna to make a shift in its angle as part of the radio occultation experiment.[3] Mariner 5 also included some additional equipment that was not flown on Mariner 4, such as its Ultraviolet Photometer, two 50 MHz DFR antennas, a 423 MHz DFR antenna mounted on the end of one of the solar panels, and a deployable Sun-shade on the aft of the spacecraft for thermal control. The UV Photometer was originally supposed to fly on Mariner 4 and would have been mounted to its TV Camera scan platform. However, it was removed (allowing it to be flown on Mariner 5) and swapped out for a thermal/inertial mass simulator late in the assembly of Mariner 4 as it was discovered to create electrical arcing problems that would have jeopardized the TV Camera.[3]

Prior to the choice of Venus as the target proposals had been made to send it to either the comet 7P/Pons–Winnecke or 10P/Tempel.[4]


Liftoff took place on June 14, 1967, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 12 on Atlas vehicle 5401. Booster performance was normal through the Atlas portion of the launch and the first Agena burn, with all systems operating at the proper level. During the second Agena burn, abnormal fluctuations in the engine chamber pressure occurred, however they did not preclude successful interplanetary injection. There had been several occurrences of this behavior on previous NASA and Air Force launches and a program was initiated to correct it which led to a redesign of the Agena turbopump gearbox.

Venus FlybyEdit

Mariner 5 flew by Venus on October 19 1967 at an altitude of 3,990 kilometers (2,480 mi). With more sensitive instruments than its predecessor Mariner 2, Mariner 5 was able to shed new light on the hot, cloud-covered planet and on conditions in interplanetary space.

Radio occultation data from Mariner 5 helped to understand the temperature and pressure data returned by the Venera 4 lander, which arrived at Venus shortly before it. The Venera 4 and Mariner 5 data was subsequently analysed together under a combined Soviet–American working group of COSPAR in 1969,[5][6] an organization of early space cooperation.[7] With the data of these missions, it was clear that Venus had a very hot surface and an atmosphere even denser than expected.

The operations of Mariner 5 ended in November 1967 and it is now defunct in a heliocentric orbit.

Further communication attemptsEdit

Further communication attempts were tried, in a joint spacecraft solar wind / solar magnetic fields investigation with Mariner 4, back in communication with Earth after being out of telemetry for about a year or more around superior conjunction. During the experiment, both spacecraft were going to be on the same idealized magnetic field spiral carried out from the sun by the solar wind.

Between April and November 1968 NASA tried to reacquire Mariner 5 to continue probing interplanetary conditions. Attempts to reacquire Mariner 5 during June, July, and early August 1968 yielded no spacecraft signal.

On October 14, the receiver operator at DSS 14 obtained a lock on the Mariner 5 signal. A carrier wave was detected, but outside expected frequency limits and varying in wavelength. Signal strength changes indicated the spacecraft was in a slow roll. Nevertheless, it was possible to lock the spacecraft to an uplink signal, but no response was observed to any commands sent to it. Without telemetry and without any signal change in response to commands, there was no possibility to repair or continue to use the spacecraft. Operations were terminated at the end of the track from DSS 61 at 07:46 GMT on November 5, 1968.


  1. Two-Frequency Beacon Receiver
  2. S-Band Occultation
  3. Helium Magnetometer
  4. Ultraviolet Photometer
  5. Interplanetary Ion Plasma Probe for E/Q of 40 to 9400 Volts
  6. Celestial Mechanics
  7. Trapped Radiation Detector

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Quick Facts: Mariner 5".
  2. ^ "The Return to Venus: The Mission of Mariner 5". June 15, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "Mariner-Venus 1967". NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS). September 2, 2013. Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  4. ^ Ulivi, Paolo; Harland, David M (2007). Robotic Exploration of the Solar System Part I: The Golden Age 1957-1982. Springer. p. 57-58. ISBN 9780387493268.
  5. ^ Carl Sagan (September 1969). "The COSPAR Meetings in Prague". Icarus. 11 (2): 268–272. Bibcode:1969Icar...11..268S. doi:10.1016/0019-1035(69)90052-9.
  6. ^ "Report on the Activities of the COSPAR Working Group VII". Preliminary Report, COSPAR Twelfth Plenary Meeting and Tenth International Space Science Symposium. Prague, Czechoslovakia: National Academy of Sciences. May 11–24, 1969. p. 94.
  7. ^ Sagdeev, Roald; Eisenhower, Susan (May 28, 2008). "United States-Soviet Space Cooperation during the Cold War". Retrieved July 19, 2009.

External linksEdit

  • Mariner 5 Mission Profile by NASA's Solar System Exploration
  • Mariner Venus 1967 Final Project Report
  • The Mariner 5 flight path and its determination from tracking data (now from