What was the first spacecraft to arrive at a planet?

We recount the day when the first manmade spacecraft made contact with another world

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NASA’s Mariner 2 (pictured) was the first spacecraft to skim Venus but it was the Soviet’s Venera 3, which made the first ever landing on the hellish world. Image Credit: NASA

NASA’s Mariner 2 (pictured) was the first spacecraft to skim Venus but it was the Soviet’s Venera 3, which made the first ever landing on the hellish world. Image Credit: NASA

Asked by Graham Tanner

This depends on what your definition of ‘arriving at’ a planet is. Planetary exploration has had many failures, and success came in small steps. The first spacecraft to successfully ‘graze’ another planet was NASA’s Mariner 2, during its flyby of Venus in 1962.

The first spacecraft to actually land on another planet was the Soviet Venera 3 craft in 1966, however contact was lost with the craft before landing, so to be more accurate we should say it was the first to crash on another planet.

The first successful landing, with data transmitted back to Earth was in 1970 with Venera 7, again a Venus mission. This mission transmitted 23 minutes of data from the planet’s surface.

Answered by Sophie Allan from the National Space Centre

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