Viking Mission to Mars
NASA's Viking Mission to Mars was composed of two spacecraft, Viking 1 and Viking 2, each consisting of an orbiter and a lander. The primary mission objectives were to obtain high resolution images of the Martian surface, characterize the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface, and search for evidence of life. Viking 1 was launched on August 20, 1975 and arrived at Mars on June 19, 1976. The first month of orbit was devoted to imaging the surface to find appropriate landing sites for the Viking Landers. On July 20, 1976 the Viking 1 Lander separated from the Orbiter and touched down at Chryse Planitia (22.48° N, 49.97° W planetographic, 1.5 km below the datum (6.1 mbar) elevation). Viking 2 was launched September 9, 1975 and entered Mars orbit on August 7, 1976. The Viking 2 Lander touched down at Utopia Planitia (47.97° N, 225.74° W, 3 km below the datum elevation) on September 3, 1976. The Orbiters imaged the entire surface of Mars at a resolution of 150 to 300 meters, and selected areas at 8 meters. The lowest periapsis altitude for both Orbiters was 300 km. The Viking 2 Orbiter was powered down on July 25, 1978 after 706 orbits, and the Viking 1 Orbiter on August 17, 1980, after over 1400 orbits. The Orbiter images are available from NSSDC on CD-ROM and as photographic products. These images have been converted to digital image mosaics and maps , and these are also available from NSSDC on CD-ROM. An index giving the latitude and longitude of each Viking Orbiter image is available at the Viking FTP site. The Viking Landers transmitted images of the surface, took surface samples and analyzed them for composition and signs of life, studied atmospheric composition and meteorology, and deployed seismometers. The Viking 2 Lander ended communications on April 11, 1980, and the Viking 1 Lander on November 13, 1982, after transmitting over 1400 images of the two sites. Many of these images are also available from NSSDC online and as photographic products.
The results from the Viking experiments give our most complete view of Mars to date. Volcanoes, lava plains, immense canyons, cratered areas, wind-formed features, and evidence of surface water are apparent in the Orbiter images. The planet appears to be divisible into two main regions, northern low plains and southern cratered highlands. Superimposed on these regions are the Tharsis and Elysium bulges, which are high-standing volcanic areas, and Valles Marineris, a system of giant canyons near the equator. The surface material at both landing sites can best be characterized as iron-rich clay. Measured temperatures at the landing sites ranged from 150 to 250 K, with a variation over a given day of 35 to 50 K. Seasonal dust storms, pressure changes, and transport of atmospheric gases between the polar caps were observed. The biology experiment produced no evidence of life at either landing site.
Further information on the spacecraft, experiments, and data returned from the Viking missions can be found in the September 30, 1977 issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research, "Scientific Results of the Viking Project", vol. 82, no. 28.
Mars Home Page
Mars Fact Sheet
Comparison of Viking Lander and Mars
Pathfinder B&W Panoramas
Mars global view showing the Viking and Mars Pathfinder landing sites
Mars Mileage Guide - distance between Pathfinder and Viking landing sites and other martian features
Catalog of Spaceborne Imaging - Images of Mars from Viking and other missions
NSSDC Photo Gallery - More images of Mars
Viking FTP site - Includes an index of latitude and longitude of all Orbiter images
Mars Frequently Asked Questions
Viking Lander 20th Anniversary - 20 July 1996
Viking Books Online
On Mars - A History of the Viking Mission
The Martian Landscape - Images from the Viking Landers
Viking Orbiter Views of Mars - Images from the Viking Orbiters
Viking Lander Images - PDS Imaging Node
PDS Geosciences Node
Mars Geoscience Navigator - PDS Geosciences Node
Center for Mars Exploration
Viking Meteorology Data