back to article 40 years ago today the US govt sent a taxpayer-funded robot to invade an alien hostile world

The surviving members of the Viking Mars probe team have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first probe to make it down onto the surface of the Red Planet, send back pictures, and perform scientific experiments. The Viking 1 lander hit dirt on Mars on July 20, 1976, 16 days late. The probe had been planned for …

  1. TReko
    Thumb Up

    How appropriate

    So it worked fine for six years and then was killed by a software update...sounds like my experience this morning with Microsoft Update

    1. TheVogon

      Re: How appropriate

      "40 years ago today the US govt sent a taxpayer-funded robot to invade an alien hostile world"

      When I saw the headline, I thought they must be referring to Jimmy Carter...

  2. Pen-y-gors

    And the lesson is...

    Never rely on remote updates. If it's important, send an engineer out on site.

    1. Francis Boyle

      Re: And the lesson is...

      I don't think amanfromMars was around then.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And the lesson is...

        could you imagine the write-up on the support ticket? forget "I attended site to .." and all that boring stuff ..

  3. ssharwood

    I remember devouring an issue of National Geographic devoted to the Viking missions. Especially the bits about the microbe-attracting substance nicknamed "chicken soup". My grandmothers were both big chicken soup makers and I understood just what the Mars boffins were up to.

    And no - there were no topless tribal shots in that issue of National Geographic. It needs saying before one of you people makes a gag about it.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon
      Joke

      "And no - there were no topless tribal shots in that issue of National Geographic"

      Did you claim your refund?

  4. redpawn

    Blue Skies

    I remember an early image with a pretty blue sky. They fixed it to pinkish orange after a short time. It was nice to think it was more like Earth for a moment and that the chemical reactions might be life just waiting for food and water.

    1. Pliny the Whiner

      Re: Blue Skies

      "It was nice to think it was more like Earth for a moment and that the chemical reactions might be life just waiting for food and water."

      Given all the candy wrappers and cigarette butts lying about, Mars is a lot more like Earth than anyone cares to admit.

  5. ecofeco Silver badge

    Still amazing

    Still an amazing and great accomplishment.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    And very cost-effective too!

    Just had to dye all the dirt in the Apollo soundstage orange!!

    More seriously, that was an exciting mission. I was about 10 years old when it happened.

  7. mrjohn

    Next time I mess up at work I'll tell myself at least I didn't mess up on another planet too.

  8. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    I remember discussing the Viking 1 landing at home and at school (4th grade at that time). All the kids were kinda sad that it didn't find any Martians.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "All the kids were kinda sad that it didn't find any Martians."

      There was one on the TV the other night, broadcasting from Cleveland ...

  9. TDahl

    Viking Lander 3D Model

    Regarding the "scratch the surface" of Mars comment: The lander surface sampler (scoop) backhoes were used to dig trenches six or so inches deep, from which soil samples were collected for analysis.

    The Viking project was an incredible engineering and scientific success, expanding humanity's knowledge of Mars enormously. I recently attended the 40th anniversary celebration in Denver Colorado, near the Lockheed Martin (then Martin Marietta) plant that designed and built the landers. Also attending were dozens of people who worked on the project back in the day, and it was a pleasure to meet some of them in person. I was a teenager in 1976, and I recall watching the first picture from Viking 1 emerge on the TV. Fantastic! I've been interested in Viking ever since.

    In recent years I've been seriously researching the lander hardware, to help document and preserve its legacy. I have been creating a high-fidelity 3D model (using SketchUp) that is about half done. Here are a couple of videos I've created. The video descriptions on YouTube include links to the actual SketchUp model file and to the research material I have collected.

    Animation of lander leg mechanisms: https://youtu.be/tKiiQpMdnTM

    Making-of video: https://youtu.be/1vyzoWudom8

  10. JimmyPage
    Thumb Up

    Alternative 3 (and Capricorn One)

    What I remember was a brilliantly executed UK TV programme called "Alternative 3". Billed as a "documentary" it followed a story about scientists involved in the Mars mission going missing and ended with a "classified" film clip that showed something scuttling under the Martian surface when Viking landed.

    I was 11 at the time, so thought it was real ....

    And the fact and fiction loosely danced in "CapricornOne"

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