Red Planet Remembrances

With so much attention focused on Mars these days it is worth looking back at the first two landers to successfully make it to the ground and carry out an extensive scientific program. This happened way back in the Bicentennial year of 1976 when the Viking 1 and 2 orbiters successfully navigated their way to the Red Planet before releasing their precious cargo of atomic-powered landers to descend to the surface where the two landers photographed their surroundings while digging into the Martian soil in an attempt to look for microbial life all the while monitoring the weather and the changing seasons. An engineering model of a Viking lander is on display at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC, where it is displayed on a replica of the Martian surface complete with trenches dug into the soil by the lander’s robotic arm as it collected samples to study in the onboard automated biological laboratories.

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