On Mars: Exploration of the Red Planet. 1958-1978

[ix] It is difficult for me to believe that there is already a written history of the Viking program. After all, the Vikings landed on Mars in 1976 just a few years ago. The Viking 1 lander, designed for a 90-day surface mission, actually transmitted science messages to Earth for seven years. That such an extended mission was even possible is a crowning tribute to the people of Viking, in government, industry, and academia. This history is largely the story of those people of Viking, how they faced and dealt, emotionally at times, with technical problems, with adversity in the form of budget and people troubles, and with the political world. It is all too easy to forget these things in the face of gleaming, sophisticated spacecraft successfully performing their miracles in orbit around and on the surface of Mars.
This is indeed the time to capture the Viking history, for the memories of those who spent almost a decade with the program will rapidly fade, most have already moved on to new ventures, and relevant documents will disappear. The Viking history is of interest not only as the story of how the first planetary landing came to fruition or of how the first in-situ search for evidence of extraterrestrial life came about, but as a Iesson on how thousands of individuals performed as a coherent team to accomplish what some believed to be impossible.


Noel W.Hinners

Associate Administrator for Space Science, NASA 1974-1979.
Director National Air & Space Museum, 1979-1982.