By: Justin Smith, Dillon De Leon, and Joshua Bittok
We all love the Minnesota Vikings, well most of us anyway. But have you ever heard of the Viking spacecraft missions? You see, if we really think about it, there are some things more important than rushing home from church on Sunday afternoon, trying to catch the big game on ABC. I think science is one of them.
One of my favorite areas of science is space. I'm captivated by space missions. Viking 1 and Viking 2 are now the most entertaining space missions I've ever seen. Viking 1 launched on August 20, 1975. It was the first successful mission to land on Mars. The mission was unmanned. The main goal for sending Viking 1 into space was to provide various new insights into the nature and history of Mars. It took high-resolution photos of Mars' surface, characterized the make up of the atmosphere and the surface, and searched for evidence of life. This spacecraft, along with the other Viking missions, consisted of an orbiter, a lander, and an aeroshell. The orbiter for Viking 1 included an imaging system, an atmospheric water detector, and an infrared thermal mapper. The lander included an imaging system, a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, a seismometer, an x-ray fluorescence, a biological laboratory, a weather instrument package, and a remote sampler arm. The aeroshell consisted of a retarding potential analyzer and an upper-atmosphere mass spectrometer. The end product looked something like this:
On June 19, 1976, the spacecraft entered orbit around Mars. One day after it entered Mars' atmosphere, when the orbiter of Viking 1 began sending photos of the originally planned landing site, scientists found out the area was much rougher than they had expected. With more pictures, scientists came up with a new landing spot for the spacecraft. On July 20, 1976, the Viking 1 lander safely landed on the surface of Mars at 22.483 degrees north latitude and 47.94 degrees west longitude at 11:53:06 UT. The video below shows the ABC news update of the landing of Viking 1.
As said in the video, although no traces of life were found, Viking 1 found all of the elements essential to life on Earth like oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and etc on Mars.
Viking 2 was another unmanned mission in search of various new insights into the nature and history of Mars. Both of the Viking missions had the same objectives. The Viking 2 spacecraft also had an orbiter, a lander, and an aeroshell. Viking 2 launched on September 9, 1975. It entered Mars' atmosphere on August 7, 1976. On September 3, 1979, Viking 2 successfully landed on Mars' surface at 47.968 degrees north latitude and 225.71 degrees west longitude (about 6,460 kilometers from the Viking 1 landing site) at 22:37:50 UT. Combined, both spacecrafts sent over 51,500 photos of Mars back to Earth, which covered about 97 percent of Mars.
Some people important to the Viking missions are listed below:
- Mike Malin
- Ashley Stroupe
- Cassie Conley
- Ralph Carruth
- Amanda Hendrix
In conclusion, the Viking missions were a success in photographing 97 percent of Mars' surface. Even though 3 percent still remains unknown, we get the basic picture of Mars, composition. So even though, again, we all love the Minnesota Vikings, there are more important things in life than football. And as they said back in the Oldies...