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Viking 2 Lander

By Marty McDowell/NASA

The Viking project consisted of launches of two separate spacecraft to Mars, Viking 1, launched on 20 August 1975, and Viking 2, launched on September 9, 1975.

Each spacecraft consisted of an orbiter and a lander. After orbiting Mars and returning images used for landing site selection, the orbiter and lander detached and the lander entered the martian atmosphere and soft-landed at the selected site. The orbiters continued imaging and other scientific operations from orbit while the landers deployed instruments on the surface. The fully fueled orbiter-lander pair had a mass of 3530 kg. After separation and landing, the lander had a mass of about 600 kg and the orbiter 900 kg. The lander was encased in a bioshield at launch to prevent contamination by terrestrial organisms.

NASA

This color image shows a thin layer of water ice frost on the martian surface at Utopia Planitia. It was taken by Viking 2 Lander camera 2 on 18 May 1979, almost exactly one martian year (687 days) after frost first appeared at this spot and was imaged by Viking 2. The layer is thought to be only a couple thousandths of a centimeter thick. It is speculated that dust particles in the atmosphere pick up tiny bits of water. When it gets cold enough for carbon dioxide to solidify, some of it attaches to the dust and ice and it falls to the surface.

Image courtesy of NASA.

 

Following launch and a 333 day cruise to Mars, the Viking 2 Orbiter began returning global images of Mars prior to orbit insertion. The orbiter was inserted into a 1500 x 33,000 km, 24.6 hr Mars orbit on 7 August 1976 and trimmed to a 27.3 hr site certification orbit with a periapsis of 1499 km and an inclination of 55.2 degrees on 9 August. Imaging of candidate sites was begun and the landing site was selected based on these pictures and the images returned by the Viking 1 Orbiter.

The lander and its aeroshell separated from the orbiter on September 3, 1976. At the time of separation, the lander was orbiting at about 4 km/s. After separation rockets fired to begin lander deorbit. After a few hours, at about 300 km altitude, the lander was reoriented for entry. The aeroshell with its ablatable heat shield slowed the craft as it plunged through the atmosphere. During this time, entry science experiments were performed. At 6 km altitude at about 250 m/s the 16 m diameter lander parachutes were deployed. Seven seconds later the aeroshell was jettisoned, and 8 seconds after that the three lander legs were extended. In 45 seconds the parachute had slowed the lander to 60 m/s. At 1.5 km altitude, retro-rockets were ignited and fired until landing 40 seconds later at about 2.4 m/s. The landing rockets used an 18 nozzle design to spread the hydrogen and nitrogen exhaust over a wide area. It was determined that this would limit surface heating to no more than 1 degree C and that no more than 1 mm of the surface material would be stripped away.

The Viking 2 Lander touched down about 200 km west of the crater Mie in Utopia Planitia at 48.269 deg N latitude and 225.990 deg W longitude at 22:58:20 UT (9:49:05 a.m. local Mars time). Due to radar misidentification of a rock or highly reflective surface, the thrusters fired an extra time 0.4 seconds before landing, cracking the surface and raising dust. The lander settled down with one leg on a rock, tilted at 8.2 degrees. The cameras began taking images immediately after landing.

The Viking 2 Lander operated on the surface for 1281 Mars days and was turned off on April 11, 1980 when its batteries failed.

Source: NASA.

 

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Space References (Books):
Dickinson, Terence. Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. Firefly Books, 1998.
Greene, Brian. Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. Vintage, 2000.
Hawking, Stephen. Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition. Bantam, 1996.
Hawking, Stephen. Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe. New Millenium, 2002.
Hawking, Stephen. The Universe in a Nutshell. Bantam, 2001.
Kaku, Michio. Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps and the Tenth Dimension.
Kranz, Gene. Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. Berkley Pub Group, 2001.
Sagan, Carl; Druyan, Ann. Comet, Revised Edition. Ballantine, 1997
Sagan, Carl. Cosmos, Reissue Edition. Ballantine, 1993
Sagan, Carl. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Ballantine, 1997

Space References (Videos):
Cosmos. PBS, 2000.
Stephen Hawking's Universe. PBS, 1997.
Hyperspace. BBC, 2002.
Life Beyond Earth PBS, 1999.
The Planets
. BBC, 1999.
Understanding The Universe. A&E, 1996.

 

SPACE SPECS

Courtesy of NASA

Launched: September 9, 1975

Destination: Mars

Arrival: August 7, 1976

Return

Nation: U.S.

Mission: Mars landing and photography.


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