Mariner 3 Mars Mission

Mariner 3 was launched at 2:22 PM EST on November 5, 1964 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 13. After an uneventful boost phase, the Agena completed its burn to place the probe on a trajectory towards Mars. One hour after launch, the first telemetry transmissions from Mariner 3 were received, indicating that the scientific instruments were functioning correctly but there was no indication of any solar panel operation. Unsure of the exact problem, ground controllers issued a command to turn off the rate gyros to conserve power while they worked to figure out what had happened. Telemetry data suggested a separation failure of either the Agena or the payload fairing, however a below-normal velocity appeared to indicate that the fairing had not separated properly. A command was sent to manually jettison the payload shroud, but nothing happened. The ground controllers next considered firing Mariner 3’s midcourse correction engine to blow off the shroud, however they ran out of time. Eight hours after launch, the batteries in the probe died and the mission was officially terminated. Even if the shroud could be removed, the mission probably would have failed anyway since the low velocity meant that Mariner 3 would miss Mars by several million miles.