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  Mariner-H (8): Satellite view of splashdown

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Author Topic:   Mariner-H (8): Satellite view of splashdown
Blackarrow
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From: Belfast, United Kingdom
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posted 05-03-2005 05:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On 8th May, 1971, Mariner 8 was launched on an Atlas-Centaur booster with the intention of orbiting Mars. Unfortunately, the launch vehicle failed and Mariner 8 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean. I 'm fairly certain this was the last time a NASA planetary mission suffered a launch failure.

I remember the failure - I was very disappointed. I remember that the TV news coverage of the failure included a still photograph purporting to be a satellite image of the splash as Mariner hit the ocean. I took a photograph of the picture off the TV screen. (It's somewhere in a box in my attic). My question: does anyone else remember seeing this photograph? Did it really show the moment of impact as Mariner 8 hit the ocean? If it wasn't Mariner 8, what was it? Which satellite took the picture?

It may be expecting too much for anyone to clarify this rather obscure point all these years later, but if anyone can do it, collectSPACE members can do it!

spaceuk
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posted 05-05-2005 11:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't recall seeing any 'splashdown' photos.

I do recall seeing a TV news photo of the general area where Mariner 8 and its upper stage should have splashdowned.

Blackarrow
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posted 09-11-2011 04:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The successful launch to the Moon of the GRAIL spacecraft reminded me of this thread and that no American spacecraft aimed at the Moon or the planets has failed at the launch stage since 8th May, 1971, when an Atlas-Centaur rocket deposited Mariner H (which would have been the Mariner 8 Mars orbiter) into the Atlantic Ocean.

I took this photograph off a TV news broadcast that evening. The newsreader said that the picture, taken from either a high-altitude aircraft or a satellite, showed the splash as the rocket and spacecraft hit the Atlantic.

I had no reason to doubt the accuracy of that report, but over the last 40 years I have never seen the picture reproduced anywhere. I would welcome comments on whether the picture could really show a Centaur stage and spacecraft splashing into the ocean after a launch failure; and whether the picture appears anywhere else. I assume it must have been circulated by the press agencies on the day of the launch failure.

SpaceAholic
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From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
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posted 09-11-2011 06:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Doubtful since reentry occurred 1500 miles downrange.

Blackarrow
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posted 09-12-2011 05:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Why is that a problem? The Atlas worked fine, it was the Centaur stage that failed, so Centaur/Mariner naturally would have come down somewhere in the mid-Atlantic. 1,500 miles from KSC sounds about right.

Britain's Independent Television News did not have a habit of presenting fake stories in the early 1970s. They had a good reputation for their presentation of space news. I'm sure this picture must have come from one of the news agencies. Here's a challenge: after 40 years, can someone find a copy?

Byeman
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posted 09-12-2011 05:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Byeman   Click Here to Email Byeman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
Why is that a problem?
Because there would be no assets in the area to capture a picture.

SpaceAholic
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From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
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posted 09-12-2011 05:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's a problem because of a lack of persistent overhead imagery to snap the hypothetical shot.

An aircraft would have had to have been stationed within close proximity to the impact zone (based on pre-cognitive knowledge of an off-nominal reentry trajectory).

Satellite imagery would have required a perfect confluence of events (orbital placement, payload commanded to stare at the right location at the correct time, high resolution, and a government willing to disclose sensitive capabilities as a result of declassification for public release of the photo).

FFrench
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posted 09-12-2011 05:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interestingly, your image looks not unlike some of the Mariner images of the surface of Mars, plus Ranger / Surveyor images of the moon - certainly appears to be small craters. TV shows used a lot more of artists' imaginings of forthcoming space imaging at that time - and it wouldn't be the first time a TV station flashed up the wrong image when an announcer was discussing a story.

I suspect it may be a Mariner 6 or 7 image of the surface.

Blackarrow
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posted 09-12-2011 06:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SpaceAholic:
It's a problem because of a lack of persistent overhead imagery to snap the hypothetical shot.

There is such a thing as an unlikely coming together of circumstances. If it's what it was announced it was, the image is clearly a highly-magnified section of a much larger image. Is it impossible that a high-altitude aircraft or a satellite captured an image which (perhaps coincidentally) showed Mariner H hitting the ocean? Think about that startling image of Mars Phoenix parachuting across a rugged, cratered Martian landscape, or pictures from Lunar Orbiter showing Surveyors on the surface of the Moon.

Instead of concentrating on the coincidence of a camera being in the right place at the right time (which DOES happen!) what about the image itself? Is that white ring consistent with a large ocean impact, apparently from the lower left, pushing water more towards the upper right?

SpaceAholic
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posted 09-12-2011 07:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
Think about that startling image of Mars Phoenix parachuting across a rugged, cratered Martian landscape, or pictures from Lunar Orbiter showing Surveyors on the surface of the Moon.

Both of these examples were deliberate activities planned well in advance to acquire the images. The probability of a random capture (given the capabilities, tactics, techniques and procedures of reconnaissance assets during that period) is so low that it doesn't merit serious consideration.

Byeman
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posted 09-12-2011 10:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Byeman   Click Here to Email Byeman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
Is it impossible that a high-altitude aircraft or a satellite captured an image which (perhaps coincidentally) showed Mariner H hitting the ocean?
Satellite imagery was not released back then.

A reconnect plane would not have its cameras on over empty ocean. Also, recon plane imagery was not released either.

quote:
I assume it must have been circulated by the press agencies on the day of the launch failure.
It wasn't circulated because there was no picture. There are few to none of any stage save for shuttle SRBs impacting.
quote:
Originally posted by FFrench:
Interestingly, your image looks not unlike some of the Mariner images of the surface of Mars, plus Ranger / Surveyor images of the moon - certainly appears to be small craters.
I agree. And you can see a grid pattern.

Blackarrow
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posted 09-14-2011 04:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Having reviewed the Mariner 4, 6 and 7 images of Mars, I am absolutely satisfied that the picture is NOT from one of those missions. To me, it still looks like an aerial view of a large ocean impact. The background is dark, flecked by what appear to be waves (compare with certain Apollo splashdown images where the lighting angles leave the ocean surface looking dark apart from white wave-crests).

However, I gather from the various responses that no-one else believes this to be an aerial view of Mariner 8 hitting the ocean, so I reluctantly concede that the contemporaneous report on ITN News was mistaken.

It couldn't be an Apollo splashdown could it? The displacement of water looks too great.

It seems this mystery must stay a mystery.

SpaceAholic
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posted 09-14-2011 05:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not Apollo for a number of reasons, the most obvious is the aspect angle of the image which would have had to have been shot almost directly overhead if its a CM (otherwise the object would not present radial symmetrically to the camera) - recovery aircraft were kept well away from the spacecraft and its chutes (which are also absent) until post splashdown. Alternatively the subject in the photo may be spherical and/or a very luminous source over-whelming the camera gain circuitry.

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