We’ve been excitedly following the Mars Curiosity Rover mission here at TechnoBuffalo, but I’m one of the few staff members that is old enough to remember the first mission, and able to appreciate just how far our exploration of the red planet has come.
Way back in 1975, NASA launched the Viking probe to Mars, which entered the planet’s orbit in June of 1976. On July 20, 1976, the lander separated from the orbiter and made its descent to the planet’s surface, marking the first successful landing on another planet for mankind. I was fairly convinced at the time that this was being done in celebration of my fifth birthday, but my parents later informed me it was just a coincidence.
In these pre-Internet days, everyone tuned into the nightly news for all of their information, and it was a fixture of those broadcasts for some time to bring the masses updates of what was happening on Mars. As the Viking lander was a stationary object, we didn’t have the leisure of rolling along the planet’s surface, seeing all sorts of different areas, instead we just kept seeing the same panoramic views over and over again. This led to one of my fondest memories, however, as one newscaster tried to liven things up one evening by wondering aloud whether we would see martians peering over the horizon at us one of those days. I immediately turned to my parents, excited for the prospect, but they informed me that they thought the possibility was doubtful.
Again, party poopers.
So, enjoy this look back at the first mission to Mars and consider how lucky you are to be seeing color, HD images being beamed back from there every day.
Now, to get a human being there.