Why NASA's First Good Look at Mars Almost Ended Its Exploration
This Red Planet Day, find out why images from the Mariner 4 spacecraft, which launched 52 years ago, were surprising for all the wrong reasons.
If Cyber Monday doesn’t bring you holiday cheer, then you have another option: November 28 is also Red Planet Day, which commemorates the 1964 launch of the Mariner 4 spacecraft to Mars.
The images sent back to Earth as the probe flew by Mars eight months later provided our first detailed glimpse of the surface of an alien planet. And the data collected by Mariner 4 provided key information about how to safely deliver future missions to the Martian surface.
But, in the short-term, Mariner 4 was a PR disaster for NASA. The grainy, black-and-white images revealed a barren planet pockmarked with craters. It looked no different than the moon.
Nobody had seriously expected images of lush vegetation growing along the