Space Cover #250: 1966 Voyager Test Thanks to ALL of the Space Cover of the Week contributors on reaching the 250 post milestone!
This cover commemorates the first of a series of high-altitude experiments to investigate parachute designs and techniques that might be incorporated into Voyager spacecraft scheduled for unmanned soft landing on Mars in the planned 1973 missions, The experiment was conducted on August 30, 1966 by NASA from Walker AFB. Walker Air Force Base is a now closed United States Air Force base that was located three miles south of Roswell, New Mexico.
The 15 foot diameter, 1,600 pound disc-shaped flight unit containing a packaged test parachute, instruments to record loads and parachute deployment, and ring of 12 small rockets for acceleration was carried by balloon to between 120,000 and 125,000 feet altitude then released on ground command. Acceleration rockets ignited as planned, propelling unit upward at about 850 miles-per-hour into arching trajectory. The parachute deployed and the system descended in planned recovery area at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
The two Voyager missions actually launched in 1977. Voyager 1 is a 1,590 pound space probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977 to study the outer Solar System. The primary mission ended on November 20, 1980, after encounters with the Jovian system in 1979 and the Saturnian system in 1980. It was the first probe to provide detailed images of the two planets and their moons.
Voyager 2 is a sister space probe to Voyager 1 launched by NASA on August 20, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and eventually interstellar space. It was actually launched before Voyager 1, but Voyager 1 moved faster and eventually passed it. The primary mission ended December 31, 1989 after encountering the Jovian system in 1979, Saturnian system in 1981, Uranian system in 1986, and the Neptunian system in 1989.
As part of the Voyager program both spacecraft went into extended missions to locate and study the regions and boundaries of the outer heliosphere, and finally to begin exploring the interstellar medium.
This cover may be the earliest Voyager mission cover. Do you know of any other early precursor covers?