Arts & Culture


Viking was the first successful landed Mars mission.  It launched in 1975, and landed in 1976. But it began much earlier... The Viking Mars Missions Education & Preservation Project brings you the Viking story. This first release of the exhibit will guide you through the mission using the original Bulletins from the mission, engineering and planning documents, and captions from interviews with the Vikings themselves. We will share the mission from beginning to end with planning, engineering and science content, and personal insights from the viewpoints of more than 80 Viking Team Members we have interviewed. We will continue to add new content over the next several months, as we curate our extensive library.                         Click anywhere on navigation bar at the bottom of the page to go to specific documents or Mission Phases, and view entire documents, scroll, or zoom, by clicking on each content item.

Click on this document to view all pages. Each page can be expanded and scrolled in order to read the detailed content and view diagrams at a larger scale.

Every Missions begin with ideation and planning even before the Project or Program Office is formed and continue through numerous Phases. At the highest level these are Pre Launch Planning, Mission Flight Operations, and Primary Mission during which the scientific objectives are being met. Scientific primary objectives however the drivers for missions, and help to define the mission design and plan. These science objectives can begin any time after launch and continue through past primary mission into extended missions. For the purposes of understanding Viking at a high level, this section will discuss and share content from the mission science objectives and high level plan, up to the pre-launch design engineering phase. During this Planning phase, proposals are made to funding sources (in the case of Viking, government funds), and a primary Contractor is selected, which for Viking included choosing the NASA Office that would manage the project, NASA Langley Research Center, and selecting primary contractor, Martin Marietta and a few secondary vendors for the science instrument development. For Viking, selecting the Project Office location was critical, as the mission required many firsts, and equally many unknowns. In the words of Mission Designer Norman Crabill, Viking was "ambitious and audacious", but the team rose to the occasion, met obstacles head on, took calculated risks, and succeeded because of the phenomenal team members and the strong leadership of Jim Martin. NASA Langley was chosen in large part because of their expertise and success leading the Lunar Orbiter missions, which included the important first of Site Selection for the upcoming Apollo missions. Their exceptional performance and team experience and skill made them the choice team to lead the Viking mission. Other key elements of the mission were assigned to the experts at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, because of their extensive experience designing and building Orbiters and their exemplary performance in Mission Operations. Then began the creation of oversight teams for each major element: Mission Design and Planning, Science Objectives, Engineering, Mission Operations, and Integration. These documents cover the early objectives of the mission as they were communicated to the public to help people understand how the Viking mission would proceed. 

Click on the document to see additional pages. Zoom and pan are available for each page to see the images, words, and diagrams in detail.

To view the entire 399 page document, click on the document icon in the lower left corner of the screen.
This document is the original Viking Mars Missions' Lander and System Integration proposal by Martin Marietta to NASA Langley’s Viking Project Office in 1969.

This proposal was a response to the NASA Langley Request for Proposals for the mission, and was based on numerous years of study by Martin Marietta staff beginning in the early 1960s when the company was based in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Team that constructed the proposal were individuals hand selected for the Viking Project, many of whom were moved by Martin Marietta to Littleton, Colorado, specifically for the mission.

Also competing for the Viking Project elements, were numerous other contractors and NASA Centers including JPL, GE, Boeing, TRW, and many others. After all proposals were in, the Viking Project Office Team reviewed them for numerous criteria, and Martin Marietta was selected for the Lander Design, Test, and Build, as well as procurement of the science instruments and the overall integration of spacecraft systems.

In addition, Martin Marietta separately won the contract for the Launch system, which was a Titan III-E with Centaur upper stage.

The expertise of the Martin Marietta staff was deep and broad, and resulted in additional assignments throughout the project phases including Mission Flight Team and Mission Operations. Martin Marietta also designed, developed and managed a Science Instrument on the Lander, the X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (XRFS) instrument.

This Proposal includes details of the primary elements for the mission as they were originally proposed, as well as processes and touch points between vendors and NASA and the organizational and decision making processes.

The Proposal was part of the bidding process to win the contract for these elements. As such, it is different than the final "As Built" document which we will also include in the exhibit.

This document contains the primary elements for each functional system as well as the integration and testing processes and is an excellent example of how much work went into the research for the mission prior to even winning the contract.

Substantial early investment was made by Martin Marietta through company investment NASA-sponsored Internal Research and Development Program (IRAD) funding.

Today individuals have roles at contracting and space agencies that dictate who will lead various efforts. There is a lot of negotiation to win the contracts, but those that execute and implement, frequently have their roles pre-existing and they move from mission to mission, with the exception of the Mission Principal Investigators and Science Team Leaders that may have contributed to the Primary Mission Design.

This was not so with Viking. For the Viking mission, many members were hand picked to work on the mission from each institute and center.

Viking got its start before the Project Office was assigned, with a small group of individuals and an earlier ambitious Mars mission called Voyager. The Voyager mission was planning to launch two orbiters and two landers on each of two Saturn V launch vehicles. Voyager was not ultimately funded but the group remained focused on Mars as the most interesting and viable option for Planetary exploration which led to the second proposal which ultimately became Viking.

The mission question "Why Mars" was addressed by scientists and leaders from all over, that later contributed to and led Viking teams: Dr. Gerald Soffen, Dr. Richard S. Young, Dr. Tobias Owen, Dr. Harold P. Klein, Dr. Seymour L. Hess, Dr. Hugh F. Kieffer, Dr. Crofton B. Farmer, Dr. Thomas A. Mutch, Dr. Richard W. Shorthill, Dr. Robert B. Hargraves, Dr. Don L. Anderson, Dr. Priestly Toulmin III, Dr. Klaus Biemann, Dr. Michael B. McElroy and many others contributed to the dialogue that would shape the Viking mission objectives. These and other contributing Team members were led by Jim Martin, Israel Tabak, Dr. Soffen, R.S. Young, A. Thomas Young, and Conway Snyder, the team that participated the successful Lunar Orbiter missions, and originated the first Mars Voyager mission.

These individuals paved the way to Mars.

Martin Marietta won the Primary Contractor role for the Viking Mission, and had the unique perspective and opportunity to lead development of systems from the Titan III-E launch vehicle, to the Mars Lander, as well as playing the critical systems integration management.

Martin Marietta's commitment to the Viking mission began long before the Project Office was formed in 1969, as they worked closely with NASA in early Research projects for systems from entry and descent, to computing and sequencing design and science software and interface development and testing.

In addition, Martin Marietta developed a laboratory and moved individuals from Baltimore to Littleton Colorado, all in preparation for the Viking mission.

Many of these individuals had worked on the the Martin Company proposal for the LEM for the Apollo mission.

Viking was successful because of individuals from around the globe. This was most prominent due to the tracking stations in Madrid, Spain and Canberra, Australia that equally supported the mission along with the US based Goldstone Station in California.

The very leadership of the DSN tracking system during Viking, Douglas Mudgway, hailed from New Zealand, though he found his home in California, at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managing the DSN Stations all over the world. Mr. Mudgway was the Manager for all the earth bound tracking station facilities during the "Viking era" which he refers to in his book "Uplink Downlink" as 1974-1978. He continued after Viking to lead in this role through missions until his retirement in 1991.

Others ran the Stations locally, at Honeysuckle and Tidbinbilla tracking stations in Australia, such as Tom Reid, Director of Tidbinbilla, Milton Turner, who handled public affairs queries for Tidbinbilla, Hamish Lindsay, John Saxon, and support roles such as Barbara Stratford, Secretary to the Director of Tidbinbilla.

In Spain, at the Madrid Deep Station Communications Complex, the same roles existed filled by capable individuals including Carlos Gonzalez, OPS Supervisor working on the OPS consoles communicating with JPL during maneuvers.

All these men and women served as part of the communications "lifeline" to the craft, as commands were sent and data returned through the DSN (Deep Space Network) making every aspect of the mission possible, and living every key moment from launch in 1975 to the end of the extended mission in 1982.

These are just a few individuals we have been in contact with who worked on this element. If you know of others, please have them contact the project at

The Viking mission was driven by the Science objectives. These were set before the Project Office was formed based on years of inquiry and research by communities of scientists worldwide that resulted in a 1965 report by the Space Sciences Board of the National Academy of Sciences. They recommended 3 goals: The understand: The origin and evolution of the solar system, the origin and evolution of life, and the dynamic processes that shape man's terrestrial environment.

In addition, both the Viking Orbiters and the Landers had their own mission and science objectives.

The Orbiters were to:
- Guide the spacecraft to Mars orbit
- Survey landing sites
- Support the Landers with power, ground generated commands, and downlink data during flight
- Carry out scientific studies of Mars from orbit
- Act as communications relay station for the Landers

This series of posters was created to accompany the 1977 COSPAR conference in Tel Aviv. They were created by the same individuals that developed the later period Viking Bulletins.

The Science Platform for the Orbiters were mounted on what was referred to as the "scan platform" on the orbiter body, facing the Mars surface. The instruments on the platform were called the "Science Platform".

These included: a pair of high resolution, slow scan TV cameras with filters controlled by ground command; and infared atmospheric water detector (MAWD); and a high resolution infrared thermal mapper. Additionally, Radio Science was conducted which was based on data from both the Orbiters and Landers.

As the orbiters move around the planet surface, the instruments scanned the surface and create 'maps' of information for later study of the geologic features of the planet. These maps were visual image maps of the surface used to characterize the surface and to assist in choosing sites for the Landers, as well as data from the surface which would be correlated to the locations to create maps with iconic or color representation of temperature variations on the surface and moisture in the atmosphere.

In addition to Site Selection (choosing landing sites) and image mapping the surface, the results of these investigations were used to map large scale features of the landing sites for correlation with the lander data, and to investigate the atmosphere of Mars.

Using the radio signals and tracking measurements, scientists were able to study Mars and aspects of the inner solar system.

As the orbiters fly through space, the signals are affected by objects around them providing clues to scientists.

Data helped to measure surface reflectivity, redefine the orbit and mass of Mars which were based on earlier incomplete and rudimentary data sets, estimate the density of Martian ionosphere, measure atmospheric turbulence, effects of atmospheric drag, and the delay time caused by the sun during superior conjunction (when Mars passes behind the sun).

The Principal Investigator for Radio Science was William H. Michael of Langley Research Center.

The Radio Science investigation included data from both the Orbiters and Landers.

The Viking Landers had two primary objectives:

1) Land safely
2) Perform the science investigations

These investigations included instruments to further understand the physical, meteorological, seismological, chemical, geological, biological, and magnetic properties of Mars.

Scientists that led these investigations came from academic and commercial organizations and governmental organizations such as US Geologic Survey and NASA Centers around the country.

Investigators represented Academic Institutes including Brown University, CalTech, Florida State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota, Princeton University, University of Texas, University of Utah, and more.

The Soil Chemistry Investigations consisted of three focus areas, intended to characterize the soil on the Mars surface.

The Molecular (Organic) Investigation, used a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer developed under the direction of Dr. Klaus Biemann at MIT. This instrument focused on chemical analysis and differed from the Biology experiments in a variety of ways but fundamentally was focused on determining if the right constituents were present for past of future life forms as we know them, to exist.

In contrast, the Biology experiments were focused identifying extent "life forms" or positive indicators of biological processes.

The Biology Investigation itself had three experiments, each using a different methodology to determine whether life forms might be present. These included the pyrolytic release, the labeled release, and the gas exchange. The Lead Investigator for the Biology Team was Harold P. Klein using instruments developed by other individuals including Dr. Gil Levin, who developed the Labelled Release experiment referred to as "Gulliver" before it was integrated into the Viking mission.

The "Mineralology" or geochemistry investigation used the X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer to analyze the chemical elements in the Martian soil. This Investigation was led by Dr. Priestley Toulmin III and Dr. Ben Clark based on an instrument developed and submitted to the project by Dr. Ben Clark.

Viking was the first Mars surface mission, focused on determining the possibility of past or present life on the planet.

The question, "Are we alone?" has been presented in literature and art for centuries, in cultures around the world. But Viking made this question a topic of conversation in homes and institutes around the world real, with biological and chemical data and images for the first time.

With the mission objective communicated by the Press to identify "life", public expectations were immediately set, and what began as a scientific investigation, quickly became in the press and public, a success or failure scenario, with the public in addition to scientists acting as judge.

Regardless which side Vikings agree with, it was a surprise to many interviewed, that 40 years later additional follow-on missions did not get occur. The big question that comes up in interviews with Viking team members is, why was another mission with additional instruments to detect life, not sent immediately following Viking? For those Viking that continued to work with Mars missions, it was immediately clear that the cost of sterilization was prohibitive. Following Viking, there were also fundamental shifts that changed the direction from in situ testing to sample return missions. Research was done and proposals submitted for follow on missions, but they were discarded or not funded largely due to costs.

Most important, is the incredible body of science the diverse investigations did create, and vast image library provided by Viking, that has become a resource for all subsequent missions.

Viking was unquestionably an enormous success, not solely for the new information on the characteristics of the surface and soil, but the atmospheric, and physical properties and deep body of knowledge provided.

Because these experiments were conducted in the 1970s with limited hardware capabilities, even the theoretical pursuit of findings was ambitious. Results produced in a lab on Earth were significantly more difficult to determine on Mars. Nonetheless, the instruments performed exceptionally based on their limitations, and not too surprisingly, the results were interpreted differently by various reviewing bodies despite meeting the initial criteria for a 'positive' results determination.
Today, continued studies offer arguments for and against the possibility of positive biologic response from Viking. Efforts continue by Viking Biology Team member Dr. Gil Levin, Dr. Patricia Straat, to reevaluate the findings in an effort to demonstrate the results were positive.

Another challenge was relating science fact in terms that could be comprehended by layman, and the institutes responsible for communicating results were under extreme scrutiny when the results came in. Thus the dialogue about results have not been effectively communicated to the public, and the Viking argument continues to this day... "Did Viking detect Life?"
The results had human and scientific impact, and many were discouraged with the announcements by NASA. However, it was not predicted that it would be 20 years before another mission, Pathfinder, was sent to the surface.

The Biology Team Scientists were Team Leader Dr. Harold P. Klein of NASA Ames Research Center, Dr. Norman Horowitz, Dr. Joshua Lederberg of Stanford University, Dr. Gilbert Levin of Biospherics, Dr. Vance Oyama of NASA Ames Research Center, and Dr. Alexander Rich of MIT.

The X-ray Florescence Spectrometer was used to analyze the chemical elements in the Martian soil.

The Inorganic Chemistry Team included Team Leader Priestly Toulmin III from the USGS, Dr. Benton Clark of Martin Marietta, Dr. Alex K. Baird of Pomona College, Dr. Klaus Keil of the University of New Mexico, and Dr. Harry Rose of the USGS.

Interviews with Dr. Benton Clark have provided substantial additional material and that will be included in later Exhibits focused on the Science of Viking.

The Magnetic Properties Team was led by Dr. Robert Hargraves of Princeton University and USGS.

The instrument development was contracted to Raytheon Inc.

The Meteorology Investigation may not have been the primary focus of the mission, but it ended up providing the most extensive science baseline of any of the instruments, as a result of the extended missions.

After the 90 day Primary Mission, the meteorology instrument, cameras, and orbiters continued to operate, and Viking team members petitioned to continue the mission.

The Meteorology Instrument continued beyond all other instruments until 1982.

During this period the longest baseline of Mars atmospheric data was collected, providing future scientists and engineers to better understand the Mars weather and atmosphere for science and future missions. The extended mission was managed by Viking Team Member James E. Tillman, in coordination with the tracking stations in Goldstone, CA, Madrid, Spain, and Australia's Honeysuckle and Tidbinbilla. The Mission Operations was conducted at JPL.

This was important beyond just understanding the characteristics, but to plan future missions, which would consider temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind direction and wind speed. Measurements were taken from both the meteorology boom and the footpad, to gain an understanding of the differences between surface readings and readings taken from the extended position of the boom.

A deep presentation of this instrument can be found in the Critical Design Review document in the Pre Launch section of the Exhibit. Included are engineering drawings, materials, test plans and other requirements and specifications.

Additional materials will be available that may enable viewers to build their own meteorology instruments, and learn in depth about the Viking instrumentation, design, testing, and results.

Before Launch
The images and documents in this section represent the mission at a high level the design-build-test-tweak-test more cycle, to the "as built" final craft up until launch. Where we have technical documents such as planning or design documents, you may click on them to see the many pages of diagrams, plans, materials, and other content. Some diagrams are large and require zoom and pan, which are available once you select the document. Enjoy these first releases in our exhibit and come back periodically to experience more, as we curate over the next several months. 

Click on the document to see additional pages. Zoom and pan are available for each page to see the images, words, and diagrams in detail.

Imaging was a critical discipline needed to add to the body of knowledge of the Martian surface. Images from Mariner 4 and 9 gave us our first glimpse of Mars, but it wasn't until the Viking Orbiters mapped the planet with higher resolution images, and the Lander facsimile cameras captured the first views of the surface that we were able to mature our view of Mars beyond theory to conviction.

Mars channels, clearly indicating previous water flows, frost and small rivulets hinting at extent water sources though still unexplained, and many other clues that provided the baseline of the body of Mars knowledge that still guides Mars exploration today.

The imaging techniques that were first used on Apollo Lunar Orbiters to map the surface were also used on Viking Orbiters. However the facsimile cameras were used on the Landers to provide detailed panoramic views of the surface. This also contributed to the missions ability to survey the craft as well as the environment for an understanding of the state of various systems such as the meteorology boom and soil sampler.

Testing for the facsimile cameras was done at Martin Marietta during integration. This image shows a wide panoramic view taken by the Viking test cameras.

Click on the image icons in the lower left of your screen to see the whole series of images taken during pressure testing of the rocket engines.

Note the changes on the pressure gauge in the lower left of the image. Each cone was tested independently and in sequence to ensure the engines would fire as needed for a smooth descent to the Mars surface.

The rocket engines were developed by Rocket Research in Redmond, Washington, and were integrated into the Lander at Martin Marietta in Littleton, Colorado.

When you are done viewing the sequence of images, click the X in the upper right of the image enlarged to return to the main viewing screen.

The testing period was filled with challenges and tension, and humor was a major ally to relieve the stress and restore team spirit.

Cartoons by Vikings as well as professional cartoonists became as much a part of the mission expectation as reports and memos. Even the public began to expect updates to testing and mission operations via these sometimes edgy images.

The complete archive of cartoons by and about Viking will be published in an upcoming Exhibit.

The Viking retro rockets being packed for a flight from Rocket Research in Redmond, Washington to Martin Marietta for integration into the Viking Lander.

Click on the document to see additional pages. Zoom and pan are available for each page to see the images, words, and diagrams in detail.

This document contains the final design drawings, specifications, and details used for the Meteorology instrument.

The Viking Mission Bulletins
The Viking Mission Bulletins kept the press and public up to date on the mission, and were hand assembled and typeset by a small group of individuals, some of whom came from roles performed in earlier phases in the mission, or were dedicated to the communications during mission operations. The first Bulletins from 1-19 were created by Stan Hench in the JPL graphics shop. As the mission progressed, however, a dedicated team was assigned to develop them and manage many other communications medium including Speakers. This group was led by Gary Price of the NASA Langley Project Office, and following the "badge-less" model of the Viking program, included individuals from a variety of contracted institutes. The Chief Editor and visionary behind the Bulletins that led the change in format and added photo imaging and deep technical and mission content, was Duke Reiber. Duke managed the production of the bulletins, as well as conducting interviews with the Viking Team members, and writing and editing the content. Duke and his teammate Louise Beard, the expert typesetter, and proofreader from the JPL Graphics shop worked long hours to keep the public aware of the operations and discoveries. The bulletins were created by hand on a drafting board with an exacto knife and hot-wax adhesive, each page becoming its own storyboard or "mechanical". They were printed in JPLs own in-house print shop, where they shot the page and halftone negatives, transferred the pages to printing plates, and ran the press runs. After  Another team member Rodger Waldman kept the public in contact with the mission through Viking team Speakerships. During the extended mission an illustrator, Ed Sedor was added to the team. These Bulletins are digital curated originals from the Viking mission, and are part of the VMMEPP Artifact Library. 

Click on this document to view all pages. Each page can be expanded and scrolled in order to read the detailed content and view diagrams at a larger scale.

Mission Operations
Mission Operations never really ends until a mission is ended and no more communications are sent to the craft, but it begins with developing protocol for flight, training flight team members in procedures for planned and unplanned scenarios, developing schedules and command sequences and providing those items well in advance of launch to the teams that build the instruments and communication systems that will relay commands to the craft and perform a variety of functions at specific times to meet the mission design requirements. And there is always something unexpected, so building simulations of the flight plans and testing them is critically important. The Mission Design Team who were some of the first members of the Project Office had to design the mission to determine the launch windows, flight trajectories and course corrections. Interviews with Mission Designer Norman Crabill, and other Mission Planners such as John Newcomb provided insight into how these early plans were developed. When the NASA Mission Director, Jim Martin, Chief Scientist Dr. Gerald Soffen, and NASA Leadership prepared to choose the Project Office, their focus was twofold: safe passage and science objectives. The details for the Mission Operations included the Mission Profile which consisted of identifying the items above as well as selecting the launch vehicle that could meet the criteria for launch, flight and landing, or "flight summary". The documents in this initial release will highlight some aspects of these phases, but will be substantially more detailed over time as we continue to curate.

Click on this document to view all pages. Each page can be expanded and scrolled in order to read the detailed content and view diagrams at a larger scale.
As early as 1958 Lederberg and Cowie introduced concepts of Planetary protection, and by 1964 Carl Sagan, Coleman and other scientists agreed upon a framework - COSPAR Resolution No. 26 for developing quarantine standards. Viking was the first mission to apply the standards in practice, which later became known as the "Viking" standard.

These criteria were set by an international COSPAR community, many of whom were focused on the search for life such as Harold P. Klein, and others who would become leading scientists on the Viking mission.

The Viking Titan craft carrying the Orbiter and Lander lifted off on August 20th 1975 from Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Titan IIIE, know as Titan 3E, or Titan III-Centaur launch vehicle, lifted off using solid state rockets with 2.4 million pounds of thrust for 117 seconds until "burn out".

After liftoff and "burn out", the liquid fueled first stage ignited and provided 523,000 pounds of thrust for 153 seconds, followed by second stage providing 102,000 pounds of thrust for 208 seconds.

Ten seconds after second stage ignition, the Centaur shroud which protects the spacecraft and the Centaur upper stage during launch, is jettisoned.

This burn lasts 126 seconds to insert the craft into an Earth parking orbit at an altitude of 115 miles. This prepares the craft for correction and orientation to propel the spacecraft into trans-Mars trajectory.

Viewers could see the Viking spacecraft launch from the launch complex at the Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Operations at Cape Canaveral during Viking 1 launch. Staff included individuals from NASA, Martin Marietta, and the Cape facility as well as experts in launch safety that were present for every launch.

This series of images of the Viking 1 footpad #3 were taken over a period spanning just over one year.

Imaging identical locations was an important practice on Viking, to determine changes in environment, patterns, and the state of the craft and surrounding terrain.

This practice led to some remarkable discoveries including frost, which was discovered May 18, 1979 by the Viking 2 lander.

These visual clues were another first, building on the Viking body of knowledge about water, a critical factor in the search for life.

The time of day the images are taken was sometimes used as a constant, for comparisons, and at other times was changed in order to determine atmospheric and surface changes based on the significant temperature shifts that occurred on Mars throughout a single SOL and over the seasons, that were discovered by Viking to exist.

This image was taken with considerably higher environmental light, exposing additional small features that were examined by scientists from Viking, as well as other institutes.

These images are just a few from the singularly unique collection of all Viking surface and Orbital images in our Archive.

The entire collection of images will be view able in a later Exhibit where the entire collection will be featured.

Click on the document to view all the pages of the Bulletin.

This Special Edition covers in detail the image processing techniques and technologies used to produce color images of Mars.

Images of Mars
The elusive red planet perplexed, inspired, and challenged world communities for centuries, until July 20, 1976 when humankind successfully landed on Mars and sent back the first image from the surface. Attempts to reach Mars had been made since the 60s, and Flyby missions and Orbiters returned the first distance images as early as 1964 (Mariner 4). In fact a Soviet lander did reach the planet surface just before Viking, but its success was cut short after 20 short seconds, nonetheless a huge achievement and first. But it was Viking, under the leadership of Jim Martin, that led the effort that would become the baseline for our Mars knowledge in so many disciplines, and still influences and informs missions to Mars. This small selection of images is just a overview of what will come later, in a dedicated "Images of Mars" Exhibit.
The Viking Orbiters
Prior to the Viking mission, our knowledge of Mars was limited by low resolution images and data from the Mariner 4 and Mariner 9 missions. Mariner 9 did provide the first planetary map that was sufficient to indicate high level effluvial features, but until the first Viking Orbiter arrived, June 19 1976, our knowledge was insufficient, as the first images would soon indicate, even to land at the original sites planned for a July 4th landing. The Orbiters not only provided the vastly improved cameras on the movable mounted system, but they also provided Vikings first science, with the infared thermal mapper and the atmospheric water detector or MAWD. These milestone reflected in the following images are just a few of the complete collection which will be available in a later exhibit featuring "Images of Mars" in detail.

This image was created with three frames each with a different filter (red, green, violet) taken by Viking Orbiter 1 on June 18th 1976. 9 seconds elapsed between each frame and the reconstruction was done during image processing at the US Geologic Survey Image Processing Facility in Flagstaff, AZ. The caption from this NASA image includes the description: Just below the center of the picture and near the morning terminator is the large impact basin Agyre. The interior of the basin is bright, suggesting ground frost or a ground haze. Bright area south of Argyre probably is an area of discontinuous frost cover near the south pole. The pole itself is in the dark at the lower left. North of Argyre, the "Grand Canyon" of Mars, called Vallis Marineris, can be seen near the terminator. Markings elsewhere on the planet are mostly due to differences in brightness, however, color differences are present, suggesting compositional differences. Area at top is the eastern side of the Tharsis volcanic region and is bright because of cloud activity. These findings are significant when we realize that "discoveries" announced years later have omitted these Viking observations altogether or have not cited the significant work of the Viking team and supporting institutes such as the USGS.

Viking Orbiter 1 First image displayed Viking control center. Picture 8 was taken June 23, 1976 and shown in Jet Propulsion Laboratory "bringing cheers of excitement and amazement from Flight Team Members. It was actually the 33rd of a 58-frame sequence acquired during the first 7 minute survey of the preselected landing site region. One of the reasons the site was ultimately rejected was clearly visible in this first picture - the etched terrain along the channel shoreline at the lower left. Craters in the channel are a clue to the age of the fluvial features, and suggest the flow of water that created the largest channels on Mars occurred in the very distant past. The etched terrain is thought to be the product of powerful fluvial erosion - the kind that may have produced dangerously large blocks of debris below the resolution of the Orbiters cameras.

This mosaic image was created with a series of images from Viking Orbiter 1. It shows the Viking Landing target site in Chryse basin. This image was taken July 2, 1976.

This image was taken by the Viking Orbiter 2 on August 30, 1976. These images were taken from approximately 4000 kilometers above the surface and show the northern hemisphere and melting polar cap. The supposition was that this was both frozen CO2 and water ice. This was taken on day before the Viking Lander 2 was targeted to land at 47.89 degrees N Latitude and 225.86 degrees W Longitude midway between the north pole and the equator.

Credit NASA. Caption:This mosaic is a section of west Chryse where, after a month long search for a landing site, a suitable region was certified as safe for the Viking 1 landing. The largest ellipse incudes a region 137 miles long and 62 miles wide, representing an area of 99% landing probability. The smaller ellipse represents a 50% landing probability. The exact target was at 22.4 degrees North 47.5 degrees West and the Lander missed that target by only 18 miles to the west and 4 miles to the North. Chrsye Planitia was once fed by massive floods of water from the highlands surrounding the basin, as evidenced by the ghosts of large, ancient river channels - some of which can be seen in this picture. The landing site, near the lowest part of the basin, is approximately two miles below the Mars mean elevation - based on surface pressure (6.1 mb mean, 7.7 mb at site). from orbit the area is lunar-mare-like, and the site - though strewn with rocks - does offer characteristics that agree with that concept.

This image was taken from 20,000 miles by Viking 1 Orbiter. It is a 5 frame mosaic taken during the orbital high point (apoapsis) and shows Gangis Chasma in the lower right, which leads into Valles Marineris canyon. In the upper right according to NASA scientists the white patch was thought to be ice fog close to the surface. Another bright patch in the upper right corner was thought to be an ice cloud moving at approximately 100 mph.

The Surface of Mars

Credit NASA Viking News Center Caption: This first photograph ever taken on the surface of the planet Mars was obtained July 20, 1976 (SOL 0) by Viking 1 just minutes after the spacecraft landed successfully early today. The center of the image is about 1.4 meters (five feet) from Viking Lander camera #2. we see both rocks and finely granulated material - - sand or dust. Many of the small foreground rocks are flat with angular facets. Several larger rocks exhibit irregular surfaces with pits and the large rock at top shows intersecting linear cracks.

Extending from that rock toward the camera is a vertical linear dark band which may be due to a one-minute partial obscuration of the landscape due to clouds or dust intervening between the sun and the surface. Assocaited with several of the rocks are apparent signs of wind transport of granular material. The large rock in the center is about 10 centimeters (4 inches) across and shows three rough facets. To its lower right is a rock near a smooth portion of the Martian surface probably composed of very fine grained material. It is possible that the rock was moved during Viking 1 descent maneuvers, revealing the finer-grained basement substratum; or that the fine grained material has accumulated adjacent to the rock. There are a number of other furrows and depressions and places with fine grained material elsewhere in the picture. At right is a portion of footpad #3. Small quantities of fine grained sand and dust are seen at the center of the footpad near the strut and were deposited at landing. The shadow to the left of the footpad clearly exhibits detail, due to scattering of light either from the Martian atmosphere or from the spacecraft, observable because the Martian sky scatters light into the shadowed areas. Viking 1-44 P 17053

Credit NASA Viking News Center Caption: First panoramic view by Viking 1 from the surface of Mars.

The top photo forms left half of panoramic view. Bottom photo should abut top photo for complete 300 degree panorama.

The out of focus spacecraft component toward left center is the housing for the Viking sample arm, which is not yet deployed. Parallel lines in the sky are an artifact and are not real features. However, the change of brightness from horizon towards zenith and towards the right (west) is accurately reflected in this picture, taken in late Martian afternoon. At the horizon to the left is a plateau-like prominence much brighter than the foreground material between the rocks. The horizon features are approximately three kilometers (1.8 miles) away. At left is a collection of fine grained material reminiscent of sand dunes. The dark sinuous markings in left foreground are of unknown origin. Some unidentified shapes can be perceived on the hilly eminence at the horizon towards the right. A horizon cloud stratum can be made out halfway from the horizon to the top of the picture.

Bottom Half: At left is seen the low gain antenna for receipt of commands from the earth. The projections on or near the horizon may represent the rims distant impact craters. In right foreground are color charts for Lander camera calibration, a mirror for the Viking magnetic properties experiment and part of a grid on the top of the Lander body. At upper right is the high-gain antenna for direct communication between landed spacecraft and Earth. Toward the right edge is an array of smooth fine grained material which shows some hint of ripple structure and may be the beginning of a large dune field off to the right of the picture, which joins with dunes seen at the top left in this 300 degree panoramic view. Some of the rocks appear to be undercut on one side and partially buried by drifting sand on the other.

Viking 1-64 SOL 14 Mars surface image taken August 3rd, 1976 by Viking Lander 1 camera 1.

NASA image credit: Shows a dune field with features remarkably similar to many seen in the deserts of earth. Dramatic early morning lighting 7:30am local Mars time reveals subtle details and shading. The image shows 100 degrees looking northeast at left and southeast at right.

Viking scientists have studied the area very much like the one in this view in Mexico and in California (Kelso, Death Valley, Yuma). The sharp dune crests indicate the most recent wind storms capable of moving sand over dunes in the general direction from upper right to lower right. Small deposits downwind of the rocks also indicate this wind direction. Large boulder at left is about 8 meters (25 feet) from the spacecraft and measures about one by three meters (3 by ten feet).

The Meteorology boom which supports Vikings miniature weather station cuts through the pictures center. The sun rose two hours earlier and is about 30 degrees above the horizon near the center of the picture.

Credit: NASA Viking News Center

Caption: First color picture taken by Viking 2 on the Martian surface shows a rocky reddish surface much like that seen by the Viking 1 more than 4000 miles away.

The planned location for the collection of soil for on board analysis is seen in the lower part of the photo. The Landers camera #2 is looking approximately to the northeast. The right edge of the picture is due east of the spacecraft.

The sun is behind the camera in the Martian afternoon. As at Chryse Planitia where Viking 1 landed in July, the sky over Utopia is pink. Colors of the rocks and soil are also almost identical at the two landing sites. Because the spacecraft is tilted about 8 degrees to the west, the horizon appears tilted. In fact, it is nearly level.

The controversy about the color of the surface first occurred after the first color image from Viking Lander 1 was taken. These notes come from extensive interviews with Vikings at JPL when this took place including with the individuals responsible for changing the monitors and those responsible for making the decision. Initially, and in haste to provide the team and public with another exciting "first", the first image was printed and projected onto monitors at JPL that were not properly calibrated to match the color calibration charts on the Landers themselves. When this was discovered, the team was instructed to the do proper calibration and reprint and make available the corrected version of the image. According to interviews, it was not immediately noted because the individuals responsible for the monitors and printing processes were technicians performing a routine rather than trained to critique or analyse results. When those individuals were presented with the results, the decision to correct them was imminent. More details about this event as well as papers about the controversy and analysis of the colors of Mars will be presented in greater detail from a variety of perspectives. Perspectives will be presented neutrally with all known facts and sources, so that viewers can draw their own conclusions.

What we have learned is that many variations of color appearance are possible for the Martian sky depending on a number of variables including atmospheric conditions. During the time of the controversy, however, the body of knowledge was new, there was not sufficient information to confirm all the possibilities. An Earth based bias was the cause of the original controversy, but spurred scrutiny which expanded our understanding of the topic.

This image is a mosaic created with multiple images from Viking Lander 1 on September 9, 2015.

Black and white image from Viking Lander. Original image in one of 33 sets made in situ for mission purposes. Original in Viking Mars Mission Education and Preservation Project artifact Library.

This image was taken with considerably higher environmental light, exposing additional small features that were examined by scientists from Viking, as well as other institutes.

The time of day the images are taken was sometimes used as a constant, for comparisons, and at other times was changed in order to determine atmospheric and surface changes based on the significant temperature shifts that occurred on Mars throughout a single SOL and over the seasons, that were discovered by Viking to exist.

In the upper left of the image you can see the soil sampler head come into view. The instruments on the Lander were imaged regularly in order to assess their status for operation as well as to plan additional commands to for their investigations. The next image exposes even more the soil sampler haad.

This image of the footpad was taken January 06, 1977, approximately 6 months after landing. The data points surrounding the image provide additional data about when the image was taken, which camera was used, the positioning of the image target area, and other image processing information including when the image was processed versus when it was taken.

This image was taken using camera 2 on Viking Lander 1.

The Vikings
Missions are born of vision and achieved by hard work and collaboration, but all we typically hear about are the folks who initiate, lead, and the spokespeople. This was true on Viking as well. But the real story is untold, and is of men and women who solved problems together, played basketball and sang together, ate meals and raised families together, and yes at times they even slept at the office and were together for days and nights (Mars and Earth units) on end. Couples met on Viking, and there were also struggles and sacrifices made by Vikings and their families. Viking was a family - with all its idiosyncrasies and some dysfunctions, but what made Viking special was the dedication that only family can have, and without that, Viking could not be successful. This was even recognized by mission leaders, and was embraced as part of the Viking culture. Viking had many problems to solve and each one took a unique perspective and personal attributes. Individuals that could conceive of 6 foot long formulas - strings of numbers laid out on tables to figure out how to get to Mars during a specific launch window... Individuals who could look at a system or part and tell why it wasn't working (even without an engineering degree). People who could keep hundreds of changing variables in their mind at one time and see their inter dependencies. People who were trusted by their staff to lead and advocate for them fairly and without second guessing. Fearless individuals. Cautious individuals. Creative and analytic... All these personalities were necessary to address the many problems that Viking needed to solve - for the first time. And so, Viking was a community of every personality type and skill set you can imagine. Dreamers, Test Technicians, 18-22 year old Interns and Graduate students, world renowned Scientists, Storytellers, Computer Programmers, Personnel Managers and Administrative Support, Inventors, Finance and Logistic experts, Leaders for Operations, Engineering, Science and everything in between. And to make this diverse community work, humor was essential. This first launch will feature a sampling of documents and photos to show an overview of the community, and as we continue to curate we will add more people, images, and details. Please enjoy this story as it unfolds, and don't hesitate to reach out and share your story if you are a Viking (or Viking family member) and have not yet been in touch with us. This is a living history...

Click on the image to view the complete Today magazine with detailed information on the Viking mission.

Martin Marietta "Today" News Magazine Number 3: 1976. Viking Intellect and Ingenuity Triumphant. Features the individuals that worked on Viking, an overview of the mission, milestones, and even cartoons based on the mission and Mars exploration. It is a human cultural, scientific, and engineering view of the mission.

Autographed Flight Team photo taken at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Image provided by Bud Reynolds.

Viking Team Members from Martin Marietta included project managers, engineering teams, materials experts, instrument design, test engineers, computer programmers, and many more.

Many of these team members served first in their engineering or science roles and then moved or traveled to California to work in Mission Operations during the Flight and Primary Mission period.

Another activity that sustained the familial cooperation and health of Viking Team Members was the Viking Basketball Team.

Not only were Vikings excellent problem solvers of the engineering, science, program management and computing ilk, but like many high achievers recognized today, many excelled at other activities.

Basketball was just one of a few activities Vikings were known for. Others included bicycling (often many miles per day in addition to meeting mission milestones), and musical performance. Barbershop singers could be found in many teams in the Project Office, engineering at Martin Marietta, and with Mission Operations, just to name a few.

This image was taken during the Viking 1 launch by a Viking team members family who was at the Cape like many others, witnessing this historic event.

The Founder of The Viking Mars Missions Education and Preservation Project, Rachel Tillman, (11 year old blond girl in red and white striped shirt) and her brother are pictured here listening to Dr. Gerald Soffen Viking Chief Scientist, and Dr. Carl Sagan Viking Imaging Team, doing an informal educational presentation at Cape Canaveral at the launch of Viking 1.

Note from the Founder

The inspiration to preserve the Viking mission was a direct result of these and other defining moments growing up as the daughter of Viking Meteorology Team Scientist, James E. Tillman.

To witness in the intimate way I did, the launch, the first picture from the surface of Mars, the discussions and debates between my father and many other scientists, technicians, engineers. To be made to feel a part of the mission by my father and others as I was shown images from the Orbiters and the surface before even Press saw them, and asked what I thought of them... was life changing.

I was inspired by my father and other Vikings I met as a child, to preserve and share these lessons with others. Gerry Soffen - Chief Scientist and to us kids, "the Magician" ready with a trick and kind words; Conway Leovy - always questioning and inspiring us to think deeply; Carl Sagan - ready with a thoughtful story that we felt was prepared just for us... And with each interview with another Viking my respect and resolve to preserve their stories grew.

Viking holds many lessons of perseverance, problems solving,teamwork, and exploration. The art of debate and importance of research, and much more.

I am grateful to have had this opportunity when I was only a child. These experiences made me feel I was a part of something big, and gave me permission to dream big.

Now it is time to give that dream to future generations.

This project began when I saw the incredible influence Viking made on the kids in my school when I "saved" the VL3 (third Viking Lander) from scrap and placed it temporarily at the school, starting a legacy of engineers making rovers from Lego and toilet paper rolls. We were building rockets and Mars Rovers before Pathfinder, Spirit and Opportunity, and Curiosity!

That was just the beginning...

With respect and gratitude to Vikings and their families.

~ Rachel Tillman

Economic Influence
The Viking mission had an immense influence on technology used in the following aerospace industry, from entry and descent technologies such as the throttle-able engines and foot-pad designs, to imaging, computing, and instrumentation, and more. But equally important to future aerospace missions was the economic viability of those that would implement them. In the case of Viking, Martin Marietta became a leading Planetary contractor as a result of the Viking mission. Similarly, Ball Aerospace, TRW, and others developing for Viking cemented their place in the industry. Some geographic regions gained relatively more as a result, including the Denver area, where the economic influence was immense. Combined with the influx of revenue to the area, Viking Team members further changed the shape of the region by founding academic programs including, Dr. George Born, Viking Team Member who began the Planetary Sciences Division at University of Colorado, Boulder. 

This document created and distributed by Martin Marietta PR highlights the companies net earnings for that period, as a direct result of the Viking Mission.

It also notes the ceremony of April 26th to honor the men and women who worked on the Viking mission. Martin Marietta was primarily a military defense contractor, until Viking the company's' first contract for a Planetary mission.

The financial significance of Viking was not limited to the Martin Marietta, but included the entire Denver area, that experienced a revitalization with the economic influx brought by the Viking mission.

Dedicated to the men and women of Viking and their families.
Credits: Exhibit

This online Viking Mission Museum continues to grow daily as we curate more material shared and donated to the Viking Mars Missions Education and Preservation Project (VMMEPP)

As the collection grows, we will update and add to the Exhibits, Collections, and Documents.

This work is done and offered in Honor of the men and women of Viking.

To those that served the Viking Mission in all roles, this story would not be possible without you.

We give special thanks to the Vikings who have contributed hours of personal time with us interviewing, referring us to other Vikings, sharing with us memories about those no longer with us, emailing, digging through attics and basements, correcting name spelling, fact checking, and hosting us in your homes (John and Peggy Newcomb and Dr. Ben Clark) while we meet with your peers, we could not do this without your support.

For Duke Reiber, Viking Public Relations, your detailed recollections and natural storytelling skill keeps us honest and inspired, and your belief in our work keeps us persistently plugging away.

So many volunteers have given this effort their creativity, strategic acumen, tactical solutions and time, and rigor. Al Treder for countless hours advising, setting image standards, and photo-editing content, and for providing incredible narrative on your own Viking experience and extensive knowledge and understanding of other aspects of the Viking Mission. George Goodman (and Marsha) for encouragement during the infancy of this organization and for actually joining us on the Board of the nonprofit as invaluable Operations "et al" Advisor of many hats and talents, and helping us form, edit, advocate, and patiently guide the multifaceted work of VMMEPP. David Vago and Rich Evans for creative content and exhibit development support and for being part of the "A Team" in Vegas for the Digital Signage Convention.

In memory of Vikings we have come to know and respect who spent generous hours with us in their last days - and to their families - Thank you for the gift of their precious moments... Noel Hinners, Burt Lightener.

To James E. Tillman, the father, and Viking Team Member without whom this project would never have happened. You inspired and challenged me to recognize value in exploration and discovery, and made a young girls dreams seem possible. The Viking Lander 3 and the majority of the artifacts of Viking would not have been saved without you. Nor would the Viking extended mission have continued without your dedication and leadership.

To Heather Tillman, who provided creative and editing advice, patience, and resources to make this possible, and who nurtured the community and education advocate in each of us.

To my son you continue to inspire and amaze me and spur me on so you and future generations can learn about the Viking mission and what it takes to make great things possible.

Rachel Tillman, Founder and Executive Director
The Viking Mars Missions Education and Preservation Project
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Credits: All media
The exhibit featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.