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December 2nd in Astronomy and Space Science
Unmanned Spaceflight1971The Soviet Mars 3 spacecraft, consisting of an orbiter and lander, is the first spacecraft to successfully land on Mars. All instruments on the lander failed 2 minutes after landing, probably due to a massive dust storm that was occurring at the time, so no data or photographs were returned from the surface. The orbiter continued to function until March 1972.
Unmanned Spaceflight1974US Pioneer 11 passes within 43,000 km (26,725 miles) of Jupiter's cloud tops. During the flyby it obtains detailed images of the Great Red Spot, makes the first observation of Jupiter's polar regions, and determines the mass of the moon Callisto. The close approach to Jupiter accelerated Pioneer 11 to a velocity of 173,000 kph (108,000 mph), about 55 times the speed of a rifle bullet. On 1 September 1979 the spacecraft passed 20,920 km (13,000 miles) from Saturn and took the first close-up pictures of the planet. Two small moons and an additional ring were discovered. Pioneer 11 is headed in the general direction of the constellation Aquila. It will pass near one of its stars in about 4 million years.
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