An artist's rendition of the Mariner 1 Space Probe, which was destroyed just over a minute after takeoff due to a malfunction. (Courtesy: NASA)
The first in what would go on to be a successful series of interplanetary probes was a failure on this day in 1962.
Mariner 1 was to be the first in a series of NASA unmanned robotic probes to travel to other planets. Mariner 1's mission was to take to the Venus, the planet second closest to the sun in the solar system.
The probe was launched atop an Atlas-Agena rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida on July 22nd, 1962. After just over a minute, the rocket began to veer off course.
The range safety officer sent a destruct command to detonate the rocket before a possible impact on land or in the sea. The probe was destroyed in the process.
According to NASA, it was found that a missing hyphen in the computer code led to the problem with the rocket's guidance.
However, Mariner 1's sister probe, Mariner 2 was a success when it was launched on August 27th of that year. It proceeded with a successful flyby of Venus, the first American-launched probe to do so.
Despite another failure in Mariner 3, the Mariner program would go on to be one of the most successful of the 1960s and 1970s—exploring Venus, Mars, and Mercury. It would lead to further space probes such as the Voyager series, which explored the outer planets.