The 20th of July 2016 is the 40th anniversary of the Viking Mission. In 1975, the Viking 1 Mars Lander was the first American spaceship to touch down on Mars’ surface.
The moment made history in space exploration.Viking 1 transmitted images of Mars to the people on Earth, giving humanity a glimpse at the Red Planet. Viking 1 and Viking 2, which touched down a month and a half later, did a series of experiments involving life detection. These experiments helped shape the future of robotics for NASA and boosted the search for alien life in the Solar System.
The team of engineers, student interns, and scientists reunited to discuss the mission’s heritage today. The meeting was held on July 16, at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. The happening was sponsored by Lockheed Martin together with the Space Foundation and the museum itself.
Viking 1 and Viking 2 were very intricate machines for their time. They were designed to withstand the Martian environment, to explore it and to answer our burning question – Is there life on the Red Planet?
Each Viking spaceship had a lander and an orbiter. In 1969, NASA picked the Martin Marietta company (now called Lockheed Martin) as the main contractor for Project Viking. The company designed, built and tested the two landers and orbiters.
The project came together slowly, but surely. Even back then, scientists had to shrink equipment and make them weigh less. All the science had to fit the Viking aeroshell. It was a big challenge for engineers.
At the time, no one knew what the planet’s atmospheric density was. They had to take into consideration more than one model of the planet Mars.
The only spacecraft that landed softly on Mars before was the Soviet Union’s Mars 3 probe, in December 1971. However, it lost contact with Earth 20 seconds after landing.
In the end, the Viking mission was lucky enough not to land on a rocky surface, or end up in a hole. It was then able to beam the first images of the red planet.
Scientists had no idea how rocky the surface of Mars was. It could not be foreseen back then. The images beamed back were in slow motion.The Viking mission put the foundation of future space exploration.
Image Source – Wikipedia