This week’s image is a scan of an old photograph I took at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (i.e., JPL) in Pasadena, California back in the late 1980’s — its an image of an engineering model of the Viking landers:
That’s my backpack down in the lower left corner for scale (or if you prefer, the three lander footpads are each a bit over 2 meters apart from each other).
The Viking program launched two spacecraft to Mars in 1975, each of which then split into a lander and orbiter at the planet. The two landers were the first to ever successfully touch down on Mars, returning reams of data on climate, geology, and soil chemistry. Meanwhile, instruments designed to look for life returned results with just enough ambiguity to keep a lively discussion going to this day. Viking was the biggest and most ambitious program ever sent to the red planet — given the program’s many successes, I think most would forgive its price tag (a bit over $1 billion in 1975).
The Viking 2 lander lasted a bit over 3-1/2 years on the surface, while the Viking 1 lander worked for well over 6 years.
This week’s image is a scan of an old photograph I took of an engineering model of the Viking landers…