Heading to the stars: Mariner 9 launched in 1971

Mariner 9 was launched today in 1971.

It was an unmanned NASA space probe that contributed greatly to the exploration of Mars and was part of the Mariner program.

The craft was launched toward Mars from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and reached the planet on November 14 of the same year, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet– only narrowly beating the Soviets’ Mars 2 and Mars 3, which both arrived within a month.

After months of dust storms it managed to send back clear pictures of the surface.

Mariner 9 returned 7329 images over the course of its mission, which concluded in October 1972.