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 www.astronautix.com, 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.by