Mission to Mars

This photograph shows a model of the Viking lander on a simulated Martian surface. The first of the two landers arrived on the surface of Mars July 20, 1976. The second touched down September 3, 1976. Each lander housed instruments that examined the physical and magnetic properties of the soil and analyzed the atmosphere and weather patterns of Mars.



Captured here in this rendering is a Viking lander just before it touched down on the Martian surface. The parachute and upper aeroshell can be seen in the upper left corner of the image. At this stage of the descent, the lander's terminal descent propulsion system (three retro-engines) had slowed the craft down so that velocity at landing was about of 2 mps (7 mph). Seconds after the lander reached the surface it began transmitting images back to the orbiter for relay to Earth.


On the Surface of Mars

The Viking mission to Mars sent twin spacecraft to the Red Planet. This image shows a model of one of the Viking spacecraft, which were made of two parts: an orbiter and a lander. The orbiter's initial job was to survey the planet for a suitable landing site. Later the orbiter's instruments studied the planet and its atmosphere, while the orbiter acted as a radio relay station for transmitting lander data. Once on the surface of Mars, the lander surveyed the soil, wind, and atmosphere and conducted numerous experiments to determine the existence of past or present life.