TECH

Mariner 10 Anniversary: This Incredible Picture Of Venus Is 40 Years Old

06/02/2014 16:44 GMT | Updated 06/02/2014 16:59 GMT

We're pretty used to amazing pieces of tech taking incredible photographs in space these days - so much so that we sometimes forget how it all began.

And you might not realise that it began quite a long time ago. Take this picture below, showing the strange clouds and violent surface of Venus - you might think it was taken by a very modern space craft. In fact it was taken almost exactly 40 years ago.

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Nasa's Mariner 10 spacecraft took the above picture on February 5 1974.

An incredible piece of tech for the time, Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft to test and pull off a manoeuvre known as the "planetary gravity assisted flyby", by which a spacecraft flings itself around a body in order to get to another bit of space.

Mariner 10 flew past Venus in order to become the first spacecraft to get to Mercury, the closest planet to our sun.

Once there it took a second incredible picture - actually a mosaic of many shots - of the small planet:

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Above: Mercury, as pictured by Mariner 10

Since then the gravity assisted flyby technique was used by craft including the Voyager space probes right up to Nasa's Juno craft, which completed a fly past our own planet on its long journey to Jupiter.