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The Legacy of Viking

The Legacy of Viking

On this day in 1976, we landed an ambitious mission on Mars –– the Viking 2 mission.

One of a pair of identical spacecraft, Viking found a place in history when it became the first U.S. mission to successfully land on Mars and return images of the surface.

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Viking imaged and collected different types of data on the Martian surface. It also conducted experiments specifically designed to look for possible signs of life.

These experiments discovered unexpected chemical activity in the Martian soil but provided no clear evidence for the presence of living microorganisms.

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Viking didn’t find unambiguous signs of life on Mars, but it made astrobiologists wonder if we devised the right tests. To this day, the results from Viking are helping to shape the development of life detection strategies at NASA.

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So, what’s next in our search for life?

Our Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is the first mission designed to seek possible signs of past Martian life. For astrobiologists, the answers to questions about Mars’ habitability are in Perseverance’s “hands.” The robot astrobiologist and geologist launched earlier this year on July 30 and will touch down on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.

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Discover more about Viking and the history of exploration at Mars with our “Missions To Mars” graphic history novel here.

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