Touchdown on Mars
Date: 20 Jul 1976
The image above is the first photograph ever taken from the surface of Mars. It was taken by the Viking 1 lander shortly after it touched down on Mars on 20 July 1976.
Part of footpad #2 can be seen in the lower right corner, with sand and dust in the center of it, probably deposited during landing.
The primary objectives of the Viking missions, each of which was composed of two spacecraft, were to obtain high-resolution images of the Martian surface, characterize the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface, and search for evidence of life on Mars.
What Scientists/Engineers Say About This Image:
"There was something about that moment that really furthered my romance with the planets, because once you are there on the surface of another planet, or have a machine there photographing landscapes, it makes it much easier to imagine yourself looking across the Martian landscape with the dust swirling around your ankles. There was just something very evocative about that moment that I will never forget it."
--David Grinspoon: Curator of Astrobiology, Denver Museum of Nature and Science
(Read More of what David Grinspoon has to say about this and other significant events by clicking here.)
"The first Viking lander had been programmed to take an image of one of its own landing pads immediately upon touchdown, and a group of us were standing around a monitor waiting for that image to come down. The image finally began to appear on the screen, slowly and line by line in real-time as each line exposure was taken. First a grayish blur, and then a very clear beginning of the edge of the landing pad sitting on the soil, later building to show the whole pad and leg sitting on Mars. By today's standards, this is pretty routine stuff, but at the time it represented a very major accomplishment and something that had to have had a high likelihood of not working."
--Robert Mitchell: Program Manager, Cassini Mission to Saturn, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(Read More of what Robert Mitchell has to say about this and other significant events by clicking here.)
"1976: It was so exciting waiting for the twin Viking landers to touch down on the surface of Mars.
I remember sitting at home in late July watching Carl Sagan narrating on TV, while slowly the strips of the first image from Viking 1 came across. It was the image of the landing pad on Mars. It was so thrilling to have that 'other world' revealed for the first time. This moment was so moving, and symbolic of my generation's perspective on planetary exploration."
--Robert Pappalardo: Senior Research Scientist, Jet propulsion Laboratory
Last Update: 8 Mar 2012 (AMB)