[Image of Viking 2 Landing Site]

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 (22.27° N, 312.05° E, planetocentric). Viking 2 was launched September 9, 1975 and entered Mars orbit on August 7, 1976. The Viking 2 Lander touched down at Utopia Planitia (47.64° N, 134.29° E, planetocentric) 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 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 NSSDCA online and as photographic products.

The results from the Viking experiments gave our most complete view of Mars. 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 definitive 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.

Detailed information on the individual spacecraft and missions

 Viking 1 Orbiter
 Viking 1 Lander
 Viking 2 Orbiter
 Viking 2 Lander

Viking Images Online

 Viking Lander Images Online - PDS Geosciences Node
 Viking Orbiter Images Online - PDS Geosciences Node

Information on experiments and data available at NSSDCA from the NSSDCA Master Catalog:

 Viking 1 Orbiter Data
 Viking 1 Lander Data
 Viking 2 Orbiter Data
 Viking 2 Lander Data

 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
 NSSDCA Photo Gallery - More images of Mars

 Index of latitude and longitude of all Viking Orbiter images
 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

 PDS Cartography and Imaging Node
 PDS Geosciences Node
 Mars Orbital Data Explorer - PDS Geosciences Node
 Viking Meteorology Data

 Links to other pages relevant to Mars
 NSSDCA Planetary Science Page

Dr. David R. Williams, dave.williams@nasa.gov
NSSDCA, Mail Code 690.1
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771

NASA Official: Dave Williams, david.r.williams@nasa.gov
Last Updated: 12 April 2018, DRW