Image of Viking Lander
Viking 1 Lander Mission Profile

Following launch and a 304 day cruise to Mars, the orbiter began returning global images of Mars about 5 days before orbit insertion. The Viking 1 spacecraft was inserted into Mars orbit on 19 June 1976 and trimmed to a 1513 x 33,000 km, 24.66 hr site certification orbit on 21 June. Imaging of candidate sites was begun and the landing site was selected based on these pictures. The lander and its aeroshell separated from the orbiter on 20 July 08:51 UT. At the time of separation, the lander was orbiting at about 4 km/s. After separation rockets fired to begin lander deorbit. After a few hours at about 300 km altitude, the lander was reoriented for entry. The aeroshell with its ablatable heat shield slowed the craft as it plunged through the atmosphere. During this time, entry science experiments were performed. At 6 km altitude at about 250 m/s the 16 m diameter lander parachutes were deployed. Seven seconds later the aeroshell was jettisoned, and 8 seconds after that the three lander legs were extended. In 45 seconds the parachute had slowed the lander to 60 m/s. At 1.5 km altitude, retro-rockets were ignited and fired until landing 40 seconds later at about 2.4 m/s. The landing rockets used an 18 nozzle design to spread the hydrogen and nitrogen exhaust over a wide area. It was determined that this would limit surface heating to no more than 1 degree C and that no more than 1 mm of the surface material would be stripped away. The Viking 1 Lander touched down in western Chryse Planitia at 22.697 deg N latitude and 48.222 deg W longitude at a reference altitude of -2.69 km relative to a reference ellipsoid with an equatorial radius of 3397.2 km and a flatness of 0.0105 (22.480 deg N, 47.967 deg W planetographic) at 11:53:06 UT (4:13 p.m. local Mars time). Approximately 22 kg of propellants were left at landing.

Transmission of the first surface image began 25 seconds after landing. The seismometer failed to uncage, and a sampler arm locking pin was stuck and took 5 days to shake out. Otherwise, all experiments functioned nominally. The Viking 1 Lander was named the Thomas Mutch Memorial Station in January 1982 in honor of the leader of the Viking imaging team. It operated until 13 November 1982 when a faulty command sent by ground control resulted in loss of contact.

For a detailed description of the Viking mission and experiments, see "Scientific Results of the Viking Project," J. Geophys. Res., v. 82, n. 28, 1977.

Source: Viking Project Information - NSSDC


  1. Masursky, H., and Crabill, N. L., Viking landing sites: Selection and certification, Science, 193, 809-812, Aug. 1976.
  2. Soffen, G. A., Scientific results of the Viking mission, Science, 194, No. 4271, 1274-1276, Dec. 1976.
  3. Soffen, G. A., The Viking project, J. Geophys. Res., 82, No. 28, 3959-3970, Sep. 1977.
  4. Masursky, H., and Crabill, N. L., Viking landing sites: Selection and certification, Science, 193, 809-812, Aug. 1976.
  5. Soffen, G. A., and Snyder, C. W., First Viking mission to Mars, Science, 193, 759-766, Aug. 1976.
  6. Tyler, G. L., Campbell, D. B., Downs, G. S., Green, R. R., and Moore, H. J., Radar characteristics of Viking 1 landing sites, Science, 193, 812-815, Aug. 1976.

Objectives Lander Orbiter Lander 1 Orbiter 1
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Wednesday, 31-Dec-1969 18:00:00 CST