Mars’ Trailblazing Twins

Viking 1 & Viking 2 were a pair of spacecraft as part of the Mars Viking Program. Each spacecraft was composed of an orbiter & lander. The two spacecraft were launched only 20 days apart, instructed to image the Red Planet in high resolution along with studying the planet’s atmosphere and surface. When Viking 1 touched down, it became the first to do so in Mars’ history!

Fast Summary Facts About Viking 1 & 2

  • Type:  Lander & Orbiter
  • Destination:  Planet Mars
  • Status:  Deactivated
  • Launch Weight: 3,527 kgs (7,776 lbs)
  • Launch Rocket:  Titan III
  • Launch Location:  Cape Canaveral, Florida
  • Viking 1
  • Launch Date:  August 20th 1975
  • Landing Date: July 20th 1976
  • Viking 2
    • Launch Date:  September 9th 1975
    • Landing Date: September 3rd 1976

Facts About The Viking 1 Orbiter/Lander Mission!

  • Viking 1 composed of an orbiter and lander which both orbited Mars while a target landing zone was selected.
  • The Viking orbiters were based on the Mariner spacecraft design.
  • Both Viking orbiters were powered by large solar panels. These provided 620 W of power for their camera’s and radio equipment to communicate with Earth!
  • The images returned from the Viking orbiters revolutionized scientist’s view of how water had shaped the planet’s surface features.
  • The Viking orbiter also took the first close up images of Phobos, one of Mars small moons!
  • The Viking 1 orbiter operated and imaged Mars for 5 years.
  • The Viking landers had to survive a fiery entry through the atmosphere, before descending to the surface by parachute and an automated rocket burn.
  • On July 20, 1976, the Viking 1 lander became the first spacecraft to land successfully on Mars!
  • It would also send the first images back to Earth from the surface of the Red Planet.
  • The Viking 1 lander operated on the Martian surface for 2,307 days! A record it held until the rover Opportunity overtook it in 2010.

Interesting Fun Facts About The Viking 2 Mission!

  • The Viking 2 orbiter returned more than 16,000 images and made over 700 orbits of Mars.
  • The orbiter also took the first close up images of Deimos, one of Mars small moons!
  • The orbiter was turned off after a leak in its liquid-fuelled propulsion system developed.
  • It is not currently known whether the Viking 1 & 2 orbiters are still in orbit around Mars or have burnt-up and crashed on its surface.
  • Once on the surface, the Viking 2 lander had a mass of over 600 kgs (1320lbs)!
  • It returned some iconic panoramic colour images of the red-tinged rock covered desert of Mars.
  • The Viking landers attempted to search for signs of life. It was considered likely to exist in the Martian soil.
  • Both Viking landers were powered by small radioisotope generators (also known as RTGs) – these are basically little nuclear power generators!
  • The lander operated on the surface until April 11, 1980, when its batteries failed.
 
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