The first unmanned spacecraft to orbit another planet in our solar system was launched on this day in history.
Mariner 9, aka Mariner Mars ’71, was launched aboard an Atlas-Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida on May 30th, 1971.
The unmanned probe, part of a highly successful series of interplanetary exploration spacecraft, reached the Red Planet in November of that year. The probe featured a variety of instruments, as well as a camera system to take images. Its mission was a massive success, returning over 7,200 pictures of the majority of its surface.
One of its discoveries was the massive Valles Mariners (Mariner Valley), which was named after the probe. The craft lasted through October 1972.
The next Mars missions from the United States were the Viking orbiter/landers, which were also a success.