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30th Anniversary of Viking Landing on Mars 201

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the little-green-men dept.
ewhac writes "30 years ago today, mankind paid our first visit to Mars. Viking 1 made its powered landing on the red planet on 20 July 1976 at 05:12 after an 11-month flight. Images and data from the probe were soon seen all over Earth as we got our first close-up look at our planetary neighbor. Viking 2 landed a few weeks later. Like the Pathfinder rovers that followed in 1997, Viking was expected to last but a short time -- only three months -- but instead continued to gather and return data for six years."
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30th Anniversary of Viking Landing on Mars

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  • Humans? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WinEveryGame (978424) * on Thursday July 20, 2006 @09:38PM (#15754073) Homepage
    So, when will humans get there?
  • by laing (303349) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @09:46PM (#15754103)
    July 20th, 1969 was the first manned lunar landing. To me, this is a more significant anniversary than Viking.
  • by Saven Marek (739395) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @09:49PM (#15754114)
    OK the article starts with "The solar system had welcomed its first interplanetary visitor from Earth, a triumphant moment that marked the start of mankind's efforts to probe its neighbor planet for signs of life and set the sights for every Martian mission to follow." So why is this, when russians sent many probes to mars beforehand? Admittedly none of them the success of Viking but russians still reached the surface first. This stinks.

    My cousin was even taught at school that Sally Ride was the first woman into space when this is patently untrue. Why the revisionism? is it just for the sake of a good first few paragraphs or is it something worse?

  • by DestroyAllZombies (896198) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:18PM (#15754234)
    Not precisely true. Most of the USSR probes didn't make it into space, but one lived on the surface for less than a minute. Now this would be a career-ending "success" for me personally but it counts for something. It's a better experience than I had with Mars Observer ... ...

    Now the stuff about Sally Ride, well, forget it. Facts are facts. Although on second thought that statement has a lot of truthiness about it.
  • Re:Transport vehicle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:18PM (#15754239) Homepage

    You know what's even more amazing is how the Vikings managed to cross the vast distance on a wind-powered raft.

    I know that this is a joke, but the fact is that the sailing achievements of the historical Vikings across the Atlantic were not especially unusual. They simply knew how to make short hops from island to island. If the colonization of Easter Island had happened from the South American mainland, as Thor Heyerdahl set out to demonstrate in that old classic Kon-Tiki [amazon.com] , then that would have been something awesome: 4300 miles straight.

    Even beyond the matter of Easter Island, the Polynesian sailors of the South Pacific, though they used many of the same techniques, could kick the Vikings' asses in endurance and navigator skills.

  • by DestroyAllZombies (896198) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:21PM (#15754251)
    I think the textbooks would read, "The commies almost pwned us in one thing, but we proved that by throwing money at a problem and not executing scientists and engineers, we could still pwn them." And no, I'm not a right-winger.
  • OK, I feel old now. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bsartist (550317) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @10:32PM (#15754283) Homepage
    I remember seeing these amazing photos from Viking, Apollo, and Skylab missions when I was little. Been a fan of the space program ever since, and it's kind of sad to see the bureaucratic monster that NASA has become these days. Yeah, they do lots of neat stuff still - but I think they could do so much more if it weren't for the organizational mess down there. Hopefully private competition from Rutan et al will shake things up a bit.
  • Unforgettable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by istartedi (132515) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:54PM (#15754514) Journal

    I was actually home from school that day, and young enough to be glued to the screen as the images came in slllllowly as thin strips. Young enoug so that I seriously wondered if there would be ruins of ancient Martian cities visible on screen. Alas, no, but it's still a fond memory. Of course this makes me feel old, but hey, at least I was a kid. Wow, if you were an adult when this happened, you must be really old. Yeah. I'll keep telling myself that.

  • line by line (Score:3, Interesting)

    by colfer (619105) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:04AM (#15754547)
    The pictures came in, over live network TV, one vertical line at a time. From left to right it took several minutes, as I recall it, maybe longer. No image from the planet's surface had ever been seen before. And you just knew it was going to be more interesting than the surface of the Moon. But despite the live coverage, I don't recall much public interest. Apollo and Skylab had petered out. Watergate maybe. Little unmanned dingbats going to the outer planets, and later Hubble, seemed to get more antention. But I always prefered the "you were there" quality of Viking's pictures from Mars. It was obvious a person could walk around in that landscape, with enough warm clothing.
  • Re:Unforgettable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:20AM (#15754599) Homepage Journal
    I remember when the morning paper came with the first images from the surface. I expected it to look moon-like because of the dark skies used in all the pre-landing press-release illustrations. Instead it showed a brightish sky. With the rocks and sand-like dunes and the pole to hold up the science intruments looking like an umbrella stem, it looked like a rocky beach. "Son of beach!" somebody shouted. Somebody else joked that it took a vacation to a remote beach, skipping Mars. "Lucky damned probe", they said.

    It took the technicians a few weeks to get the color right, so we kept seeing blue skies, bright pink skies, green skies, etc. It was as if a toddler was playing with "tint" knob on a tube-TV. Some still argue that they never got it right because a tinted sky with sun-blocking dust allegedly makes the color calibration targets useless.
             
  • First picture! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:38AM (#15754651) Homepage Journal
    http://home.pacbell.net/vyzamora/Mars%20Picture.jp g [pacbell.net]

    Okay, seriously, this is the first image:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Mars_first_land er_image.gif [wikipedia.org]

    Caption: "This is the first image ever transmitted from the surface of Mars. It was taken only a few minutes after landing. Engineers decided to program the probe to quickly take and send an image of a footpad because it was feared that earlier Soviet probes may have sank into quicksand because they stopped transmitting shortly after touchdown. If Viking met the same fate, they wanted to know about it this time. Some speculate that the cloudiness on the left side is due to dust left over from the landing. The cameras scanned one vertical strip at a time such that by the time the scanning moved to the center of the image, the dust had allegedly settled."
  • Too bad the "Nuclear=Bad" hippies pressured NASA to not let us use nuclear power on any spacecraft capable of receiving solar power. Imagine if Pathfinder lasted a decade. The Rovers now are greatly surpassing their expectations, but too bad there's no backup nuke-powered battery to allow them to drive until 2016...
  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Friday July 21, 2006 @06:33AM (#15755372)
    Free university education to any Soviets who desired it...

    ... as long as they weren't labeled "undesirables" by the Party.

  • by lhbtubajon (469284) on Friday July 21, 2006 @10:32AM (#15756612)
    The thing is, compared to Mars, Venus isn't very interesting. It's not expected to harbor life, or to have ever harbored life, and otherwise it's not a place we expect to send a person. We can learn plenty from Venus by parking a observational satellite in orbit around it.

    Mars, however, we might actually want to go there.

    Besides, if you want a real technical challenge, lets land a navigable rover on Jupiter. I mean, one that doesn't automatically sink to it's rocky core. Venus is a cakewalk.

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun

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