The Forgotten Pathfinders. Early Deep Space Probes (By Anton Komarov)
The Forgotten Pathfinders
By Anton Komarov
Early Deep Space Odyssey
When speaking about space exploration, some names come automatically to mind. I am not speaking about human names like Garry Flandro, Edward Stone, Larry Soderblom, Carolyn Porco, Alan Stern or even Linda Morabito but the names of their robotic emissaries. How can you speak about Pluto without quoting the probe New Horizons? If you succeed in doing so, you will have to use the data of New Horizons, which by itself sums up most of what we know about this astonishing little world and its astonishing system of moons. The same goes for Neptune,and while it is true that Neptune has been observed by different means since the flyby of Voyager 2 in August 1989, the bulk of human knowledge about the eighth planet of the solar system comes from the valiant probe, which reached the vicinity of Neptune after a solitary odyssey of twelve years through the solar system. During this, she visited the realm of the giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune and to this date, is the only probe to have visited the four giant planets of the solar system in one mission and the only man-made probe to have flown by Uranus and Neptune.
Thus we readily associate Saturn with the incredible journey of the Probe Cassini-Hugyens while most commentators speaking about Jupiter will quote the Galileo probe or even Juno which is in orbit and still completing its mission around the biggest planet of the system (Dec 2021). But space exploration like most if not all of other human activities is not a fair game. There are probes which have achieved outstanding results and sometimes still hold unbroken records that are rarely spoken about. The purpose of this article is to revisit some of these missions which at their time were an absolute first and which have paved the way to the more recent missions giving them optimal chances of success. It is a random list and we will certainly have missed a few of those key pathfinders.
Luna 3: First picture of the far side of the moon.
Gravity Assist Manoeuvre is a key feature in space exploration because it allows space probes to get to their target at minimal cost with less fuel requirements; they do so by using the gravity of the body they are approaching. This technique can be used either to reduce or increase the speed of a space probe, and it can also be used to redirect the probe’s path . The robotic explorers Galileo, the Voyagers, Cassini and many others made use of this free (almost free as the linear momentum gained by the spaceship is equal in magnitude to that lost by the planet) cosmic bonus to get to their objectives.
Space Race KSP - Luna 1, Luna 2 & Luna 3 - Making History https://t.co/wjzLc3YOER via @YouTube Luna 3 is part of our article, The Forgotten Pathfinders, Surely something to remember! @StanadMakobo @deersealcrow @BorisNChuryk @AnnaScott2019— Astro Verbot Julia (@AstroVerbot) December 24, 2021
The first space probe to employ this useful technique, without which many planets of the solar system would not have yet been explored, is the Luna 3 space probe . We are in 1959, the race to put a first man into space is in full swing and, without any possible doubt, the Russian boosters are far more powerful and reliable than anything that the United States had to propose. However, the US was catching up quickly. Brian Harvey in an interview to Radio Free Europe explains "In what we call the Space Race, there were many subraces, and there were subraces to Venus and to Mars,"
Any first in space also belonged to this subrace and impressed the public as a demonstration of superior technological achievements. After a series of near misses in September 1959, the USSR attempted and succeeded in launching their probe Luna 2 to our natural satellite and entered history as the first manmade object to reach the Moon. It was not a soft landing and was the sixth attempt by the Soviets to impact the Moon. Luna 2 crash landed on the Moon, east of Mare Serenitatis near the Aristides, Archimedes and Autolycus craters deploying the Soviet Pennants  of the USSR made of titanium with the more resistant polysiloxane enamels and capable of surviving the explosion intact, an explosion which was designed to scatter the 72 pennants on the surface of the Moon before impact. The Russians were keeping the World’s public engaged while keeping the Americans enraged with their own home-grown failures and the consequent success of their adversaries. Gravity Assist(P)  Luna 3 Wikipedia  Soviet Pennants