Space History, August 9, 1973: Soviet Launch to Mars

Another “day in space history” tidbit: thirty-five years ago today, the Soviets launched Mars-7 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Proton rocket.

(When I was in the service, I monitored several technical exchanges between U.S. and Russian engineers getting ready to launch U.S. satellites on Proton rockets, something that would never have happened during the Cold War. And I watched the Canadian-owned [but U.S.-built] Nimiq-2 satellite get mated to a Proton rocket at Baikonur in 2002. I adapted some of what I saw during that operation into my story “The Rocket Seamstress.”)

According to, the Mars-7 probe was supposed to soft-land on Mars. As it happened,

Mars 7 reached Mars on 9 March 1974. Due to a problem in the operation of one of the onboard systems (attitude control or retro-rockets) the landing probe separated prematurely and missed the planet by 1,300 km. The early separation was probably due to a computer chip error which resulted in degradation of the systems during the trip to Mars.

Spaceflight is hard, no matter how much we’d like it to be easy.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.