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Viking Lander 1 Thomas A Mutch Memorial Station Imaged from
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Viking Lander 1 (Thomas A. Mutch Memorial Station) Imaged from Orbit - Viking 1 back shell

December 20, 2006
NASA's Viking Lander 1 touched down in western Chryse Planitia on July 20, 1976. The lander, which has a diameter of about 3 meters (10 feet), has been precisely located in this image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Also, likely locations have been found for the heat shield, back shell, and parachute attached to the back shell. The lander location has been confirmed by overlaying the lander-derived topographic contours on the high-resolution camera's image, which provides an excellent match. Viking Lander 1 was one element of an ambitious mission to study Mars, with a four-spacecraft flotilla consisting of two orbiters and two landers. Four cutouts from this image are shown. The first is an overview (seen above) showing the relative locations of the lander and candidate back shell and heat shield, and the others are enlargements of each of these components. Large boulders, dunes, and other features visible in Lander images can be located in the image.

A prime motivation for early viewing of these Viking sites is to calibrate imagery taken from orbit with the data previously acquired by the landers. In particular, determining what sizes of rocks can be seen from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter aids the interpretation of data now being taken to characterize sites for future landers, such as the Phoenix Mars Lander mission to be launched in 2007.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera was built by Ball Aerospace Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.


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