Status Report

NASA Mars Picture of the Day: Viking 2’s 30th!

By SpaceRef Editor
September 3, 2006
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Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-1574, 3 September 2006

(Click here for TIF version)
(Click here for TIF without annotation)

Enlargement of MOC image and Schematic Drawing of Viking 2

(Click here for GIF version without annotation)

Viking 2 landed 30 years ago today, on 3 September 1976. It was the second
of the two Viking landings on Mars. Viking 1 touched down on 20 July 1976.
Since the Viking missions of the 1970s, only 3 additional spacecraft have
successfully landed and conducted their scientific investigations:
Mars Pathfinder (1997), Mars Exploration Rover Spirit (2004-present),
and Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity (2004-present). Two new U.S. Mars
landed missions are currently in the works: Phoenix, launching in August
2007, and MSL (Mars Science Laboratory), launching in 2009.

As with the 30th anniversary of the Viking 1 landing in July (see
“Viking 1’s 30th!”),
for the Viking 2 30th anniversary, we show here the best Mars Global Surveyor (MGS)
Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) view of the landing site.

On that day 30 years ago, Viking 2 landed in Utopia Planitia, west of Mie Crater,
near 48.0°N, 225.7°W. At the time, it was considered that this might be
a good place to look for evidence of life in the martian regolith. This middle north
latitude site is often obscured by clouds in the winter and dust hazes in the spring.
The surface was observed by the lander to be dusted by thin coatings of frost during
the winter months.

The exact location of the Viking 2 lander was uncertain until MOC obtained the
high resolution view, shown above, in 2004. These images were previously
released by the MOC team on 5 May 2005, along with what was then considered
to be the best candidate for the Mars Polar Lander site (see
“MGS Finds Viking 2
Lander and Mars Polar Lander (Maybe)”
). The candidate Polar Lander site
was further imaged in 2005 and found not to be the lander (see
“Mars Polar Lander NOT Found”).

The first figure (above) shows (A) a mosaic of Viking Orbiter images obtained in
the 1970s at a resolution of 75 m/pixel, (B) a typical MGS MOC narrow angle camera
view at about 3 meters/pixel (25x higher resolution than the Viking images), and
(C, D) sections of a MOC image obtained at ~0.5 m/pixel. The second figure (above)
shows an extreme enlargement of the feature identified as Viking Lander 2, compared
to a schematic drawing of the lander in the orientation determined during the Viking

Tips for Media Use

Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology
built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission.
MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, California.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mars Surveyor Operations Project
operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial
partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena,
California and Denver, Colorado.

SpaceRef staff editor.