July 20, 1976 – first successful Mars orbiter/lander missions, Viking 1 and 2

Viking 1 was the first of two spacecraft sent to Mars as part of NASA‘s Viking program, and holds the record for the longest Mars surface mission.

Following launch using a Titan/Centaur launch vehicle on August 20, 1975 and a 10 month cruise to Mars, the orbiter began returning global images of Mars about 5 days before orbit insertion. The Viking 1 Orbiter was inserted into Mars orbit on June 19, 1976 and trimmed to a 1513 x 33,000 km, 24.66 h site certification orbit on June 21. Landing on Mars was planned for July 4, 1976, the United States Bicentennial, but imaging of the primary landing site showed it was too rough for a safe landing. The landing was delayed until a safer site was found. The lander separated from the orbiter on July 20 08:51 UT and landed at 11:53:06 UT.

Viking spacecraft.jpg

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~ by tellinghistory on July 20, 2007.

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