Mariner was the name of the program conducted by the American space agency NASA in conjunction with Jet Propulsion Laboratory that launched a series of robotic interplanetary probes designed to investigate Mars, Venus and Mercury from 1962 to 1973. Of the ten vehicles in the Mariner series, seven were successful. Its "getting locked on the wrong star" is cited in the Paradigmatic Sunday Sermon as a metaphor for wayward youth in the "asteroid belt of temptation" (Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies, 120).
The Paradigmatic Sunday Sermon refers to Mariner 4, launched on November 28, 1964, and the most-recent launch at the time Saint Fidgeta was published, which was designed to conduct closeup scientific observations of Mars. Following launch, the sun acquisition sensor, required for guidance and control, sought the star Canopus, the brightest star in the southern constellation of Carina, and the second brightest star in the night-time sky, after Sirius. The star tracker was set to respond to any object more than one-eighth as, and less than eight times as, bright as Canopus. Including Canopus, there were seven such objects visible to the sensor, and it took more than a day to find Canopus, as the sensor locked on to other stars instead.