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Flight Plans Newsletter

Viking Lander Flight Capsule #3

Manufacturer: Martin Marietta for NASA 
Model: Viking Lander Flight Capsule 
Year: 1975
Length: 10ft / 3.05m
Height: 7ft
Empty Weight: 1,270lbs / 576.07kg
Gross Weight: 1,515lbs / 687.2kg
Inclination: 83
Perigee: 110miles

TMOF Viking Lander Flight Capsule-1_P2.jpg

Viking Lander Flight Capsule #3

The Viking 1 and Viking 2 Landers were both launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1975. They traveled to Mars enclosed in a protective aeroshell attached to an orbiter. Each flight lasted about 11 months. Upon arrival at Mars, the landers separated from the orbiters and entered the atmosphere, landing at separate sites on the planet.

This artifact is the only Viking Lander Flight Capsule (FC) body left on Earth. (There are two additional lander prototypes that were made for testing and component design.)  Due to the insistence of his daughter Rachel, professor James Tillman saved the FC# 3 lander body, which was destined to be melted down for scrap.  Chris Vancil, Dr. Eckart Schmidt, and students from the University of Washington performed the restoration of lander. Tillman served as a member of the Viking Meteorology Science Team and Director of the Viking Computer Facility at the University of Washington.

Scientific Payload

In addition to the propulsion system and low-gain, high-gain, and UHF antennas, the Viking landers carried a 200-pound (91 kg) scientific payload that included:

  • Two 360-degree cylindrical scan cameras (stereo black/white and color)
  • Sampler arm, with a soil collecting head, temperature sensor, and magnet on the end
  • Meteorology boom, holding temperature, wind direction, and wind velocity sensors
  • Seismometer, magnet and camera test targets, and magnifying mirror
  • Environmentally controlled biology experiments
  • Gas chromatograph mass spectrometer for both organic and atmospheric analysis
  • X-ray fluorescence spectrometer
  • Pressure sensor