The Mariner 2 probe at an assembly facility in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Aug. 29, 1962.
Radio signals from the Mariner spacecraft were received on three 85-foot antennas like this one, which were built in California's Mojave desert, near Johannesburg in South Africa, and near Woomera in southern Australia.
In the California receiver control room, personnel await confirmation that Mariner has begun to scan the planet Venus.
Data from the receivers were teletyped in a coded format to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
There, the data was routed to the digital computer at JPL.
Printouts of the data were made available to the experimenters.
At the operations center at JPL, the spacecraft's status was posted on the wall.
A model of JPL's Mariner 2 spacecraft above a floral "Venus" moved down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, Calif., in the 1963 Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1.
Scientists show off reams of data collected by Mariner 2 as it passed by Venus. The probe flew by the planet on Dec. 14, 1962, and scanned the surface for 42 minutes.
A technician wears a hood and protective goggles while working with a full-scale model of the Mariner spacecraft in a space simulator chamber at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in 1962.
Fifty years ago, on Dec. 14, 1962, reporters gathered for a press briefing at NASA headquarters and heard an unearthly sound: radio signals being beamed back by a spacecraft flying within 22,000 miles of Venus.
The Mariner 2 mission to Venus was the first time any spacecraft had ever gone to another planet.
These days, vivid photographs showing scenes from all around the solar system are so ubiquitous that people might easily forget how mysterious our planetary neighbors used to be.
The world mourned the death this week of Indian maestro Ravi Shankar, whose name became synonymous with the sitar. Tributes eulogized Shankar as the great connector of the East and West who'd hobnobbed with The Beatles and collaborated with violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin. Less has been said about the roots of the music he spent a lifetime perfecting and innovating.
Supporters hold up posters of Japan's former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a rally in Osaka on Thursday. Considered a nationalist hawk, Abe is expected to become prime minister for a second time after parliamentary elections Sunday.
Credit Buddhika Weerasinghe / Getty Images
Japanese nationalists condemn China at a rally in Tokyo in September. Japan and China are locked in a bitter dispute over a group of islands claimed by both countries.
The Statue of Liberty still lifts her lamp beside the golden door, but the island that's home to the iconic statue was severely tempest-tost by Superstorm Sandy. Flood damage inflicted by the storm has closed Liberty Island and nearby Ellis Island indefinitely.
On Thursday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made his first visit to the Statue of Liberty since the storm. David Luchsinger, superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, led the secretary on a walking tour.
Stop anyone on the street in Europe, Latin America, Africa and even Asia, and chances are they'll know the name Lionel Messi — and they'll probably know what he did this week. The soccer phenom scored his 88th goal of the year, which is widely thought to be a world record.
And the year's not over yet.
On Sunday, Messi, 25, scored his 86th goal of the calendar year in a Spanish league game against Real Betis, in Seville. The goal, Messi's second of the game, gave Barcelona a 2-1 win over Betis, with the announcer booming, "A new goal king!"
The Hobbit's path to the screen may have started out as tortuous as a trek through the deadly Helcaraxe, filled with detours (Guillermo del Toro was initially going to direct), marked by conflict (New Zealand labor disputes) and strewn with seemingly insurmountable obstacles (so many that the filmmakers threatened to move the shoot to Australia).
Federal and state authorities have received criticism after deciding not to indict HSBC on accusations that it laundered money for Mexican drug cartels and conducted prohibited transactions on behalf of countries like Iran and Sudan. Instead, they entered into a $1.9 billion settlement this week with the bank.
There's no question that HSBC is a massive, sprawling operation. It markets itself as the world's local bank. But watchdogs of the banking industry say mere size should never insulate an organization from the law.
I went to Toys R Us recently to buy my son a Lego set for Hanukkah. Did you know a small box of Legos costs $60? Sixty bucks for 102 plastic blocks!
In fact, I learned, Lego sets can sell for thousands of dollars. And despite these prices, Lego has about 70 percent of the construction-toy market. Why? Why doesn't some competitor sell plastic blocks for less? Lego's patents expired a while ago. How hard could it be to make a cheap knockoff?