Higher, Faster, Further: 1970-1996

The Boeing Company ... Beyond the Moon

In August 1960, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the California Institute of Technology, working for NASA, began investigating spacecraft to explore Mars and Venus -- and the space between. These emerged as the Surveyor and Mariner B. Both were scheduled for launch by the Atlas-Centaur rocket, with engines supplied by Rocketdyne.

On Feb. 28, 1969, Langley Research Center issued a request for proposals to design and build the Viking Mars lander. It would land scientific payloads on Mars in 1973, gather scientific data about Martian surface features and check into the possibilities of life on Mars. The Boeing Company, the McDonnell Douglas Corp. and the Martin Marietta Corp. responded to the request.

Boeing teamed with General Electric and the Hughes Aircraft Co. Hughes would concentrate on the terminal landing phase of the mission to soft land payloads on the surface. General Electric would concentrate on the Mars atmospheric re-entry phase and Boeing was to be prime contract and systems integrator. Thomas T. Yamauchi, chief of engineering for the Boeing Lunar Orbiter, was to be program manager.

Although Martin Marietta won the contract, the Boeing effort to land the Viking contract and experience working with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory helped the company in June 1971 win the contract to build Mariner 10 , with a mission to gather data from Venus and Mercury.

Boeing teamed with General Dynamics to build the Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle -- which used North American Rocketdyne engines -- while JPL was in charge of tracking, communications and mission operations. Cost of the project, not including the $16 million launch vehicle, was about $98 million.

Mariner 10, launched Nov. 3, 1973, encountered Venus Feb. 5, 1974, and Mercury on March 29, 1974. Mariner 10 made the first dual-planet spaceflight and, for the first time in a major space mission, used a gravity-assisted launch when it harnessed the pull of Venus to send the space probe on its way to Mercury.

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