Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2001 July 21
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

25 Years Ago: Vikings on Mars
Credit: The Viking Project, M. Dale-Bannister WU StL, NASA

Explanation: On July 20, 1976, NASA's Viking 1 lander became the first U.S. spacecraft to land on Mars, followed weeks later by its twin robot explorer, the Viking 2 lander. Operating on the Martian surface into the early 1980s, the Vikings took thousands of pictures, conducted sophisticated chemical searches for life, and studied the martian weather and geology. In the dramatically detailed image above, a field of rocks and boulders is viewed from the Viking 1 landing site on Chryse Planitia (the Plain of Chryse). Viking 1's dusty foot pad is just visible at the lower right. The image was created by combining high resolution black and white images with lower resolution color images of the same area. NASA is continuing its well chronicled martian exploration program as the Mars Odyssey spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the mysterious Red Planet on October 24th. What's Mars like today?

Tomorrow's picture: Blue Reflections

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.