THE MICHIGAN DAILY
FRMA"Y. DECEMBER 14.
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Troubled Venus Probe Nears
(Continued from Page 1)
Does Venus have a magnetic field?
Does it have a belt of charged
particles around it, like the earth's
Van Allen radiation belt?
And most important of all, Mar-
iner II might give some good clues
on whether there is life on the
planet or if the environment of
Venus ,can support life.
Mariner II is a 447-pound pack-
age of measuring devices and radio
equipment. The spacecraft is 12
feet long with its 161/2-foot spread
of two solar panels.
Its radio signals are so loud and
clear that there is hope now that
Mariner II may continue relaying
information part or even all the
way to its closest approach to the
At that time Mariner II will be
about 65.5 million miles from the
sun, 2.7 million miles from Venus,
and 44.2 million miles from the
earth. From that point it will loop
far out into space, becoming a
tiny planet in solar orbit.
Mariner II was launched last
Aug. 21 by an Atlas D and Agena
B rocket combination. The rocket
put itself into a "parking orbit"
150 miles above the earth and a
few minutes later the Agena fired
its rocket to send the Mariner into
an escape trajectory toward Venus
at about 25,700 miles an hour.
About an - hour after launch,
,Mariner's solar panels had opened,
the attitude control system was
turned on and it began "locking
on" to a course to the sun. Two
days later,, after it was determined
that all of Mariner's systems were
working properly, a command was
sent to turn on the scientific in-
strumentation. Seven days after
launch Mariner II oriented itself
to the earth as well as the sun.
It was soon found out that if
Mariner II kept on its present
path to intercept Venus, it would'
miss the planet by 233,000 miles,
far outside the measuring range
of the instruments in the space
craft. So on Sept. 4, when Mariner
II was nearly one and a half mil-
lion miles from the earth, the
craft was given a "nudge" by its
rocket. It is now expected to pass
about 21,000 miles from the
Mariner II's magnetometer has
already detected ,magnetic fields
all through space. But a small
metal plate designed to register
the impact of dust particles has
detected far fewer of these than
scientists had expected, creating
something of a puzzle.
According to Jet Propulsion
Laboratory officials, Mariner II's
instruments have. been making
and sending back some 90,000
measurements a day.
As sophisticated as this space
probe is, Mariner II is only the
closest approach and at a disc
of some 25,262 miles from
The velocity of Mariner II
be increasing at the time, bet
of the gravitational pull of V
and will be about 87,000 mile
If all goes well, the radiom
will function for 42 minutes,
both the dark and sunlit side
in range. The spacecraft will
the planet's terminator, or d
ing line between light andc
ness, at 2:17 p.m.
At 2:37 p.m.-24 minutes b
Mariner II reaches its closes
proach to Venus - the scar
period will end as Venus n
out of sight of the radiom
and the spacecraft will be
structed to turn off the tw(
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first of many future space shots.
At least one and possibly two Mar-
iners will be launched in the early
spring of 1964. And two Mariners
will be prepared for launchings
toward Mars when the "red" plan-
et moves into an advantageous
position in the fall of 1964.
On Nov. 25, a signal from Mar-
iner II indicated that it had brok-
en the previous long-distance
record for space communication
set in June 1960 by the United
States' Pioneer V space probe that
went past the moon.
The reasons scientists are not
sure exactly how far Mariner II
will come to Venus are the rela-
tively crude measurements of pre-
cisely where the three tracking
stations, spaced around the world
are situated, historic imprecision
in the calculation of Venus' course,
and ignorance about the "pres-
sure" that sun radiation exerts on
objects far out in space.
Venus, our morning and even-
ing "star", is the second planet
fron the sun, between Mercury
and our planet, the earth. It takes
Venus 225 days to make one orbit
of the sun. She is called our sis-
ter planet because her diameter-
7,800 miles-is very close to the
earth's diameter of 7,926 miles.
One theory suggests that the
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
creates a "greenhouse" effect that
holds most of the heat absorbed
by the sun beneath the thick
blanket of clouds.
Another theory proposes that
Venus is heated by friction pro-
duced by high winds and dust
clouds. This presents a picture of
Venus as a vast desert. And some
astronomers believe the surface
of Venus is one, all-covering ocean.
At her closest approach to the
earth, Venus is 26.3 million miles
from the earth. When the earth
and Venus are on opposite sides of
the sun, they are farthest apart-
102 million miles.
But there is much unknown
about Venus. Some scientists say
the day is 22 hours and others say
it may rotate only once a year-
thus keeping only one side to the
sun, like the moon does to the
earth. Recent radar measurements
seem to indicate that the latter
figure may be the correct one.
Venus is .perpetually covered by
dense clouds believed to be com-
posed of carbon dioxide and nit-
rogen. A Soviet astronomer has
recently found what he believes
to be traces of oxygen in the at-
mosphere of the planet thus giv-
ing greater credibility to the
chance that life may exist there.
Temperatures of the planet have
been measured by various meth-
ods, but many of them conflict.
Most recent measurements indi-
cate a temperature of minus 38
degrees Fahrenheit in some part
of .the atmosphere and 615 de-
grees at or near the surface of
The coded signals, as received
by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory'sj
Goldstone, Calif., tracking station,
will be relayed and amplified over
the nation's radio and television
The data received from the
spacecraft as it passes Venus will
take four weeks or more to ana-
Dr. William H. Pickering of Jet
Propulsion Laborato'y said re-
cently, "The reports back have
already upset my conceptions of
the particles and, rays encoun-
tered in space by the Mariner.
"If everything works as well as
it is now, we will get back the first
actual reports of what Venus is-
to compare these facts with what
our assumptions have been," he
Some time between 2 and 4 a.m.
this morning a stored command
within the spacecraft was suppos-
ed to have switched on the two
If signals showed that this had
not been done by about 6 a.m., a
switch-on signal would have been
sent from the Woomera, Austra-
lia, tracking station-the part of
the tracking network in the best
position to command the craft at
that particular hour.
The radiometers, 20 inches in
diameter and 5 inches deep, are
mounted on a swivel driven by an
electric motor in a 120-degree
NASA said the radiometers
should detect the surface of Ven-
us-and start taking the planet's
measurements-at about 1:55 p.m.
-66 minutes before the point of
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