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Viking's 1st Image on Mars

Bill Spizzirri

November 26, 2013

Viking's 1st Image on Mars

I remember refusing to leave for work on the morning of July 20, 1976 because Carl Sagan on TV was promising that, any minute now, the first image from the surface of Mars would be received. Then it began to appear. Technology was different in then, so instead of an instant complete image, we saw it start to appear one video line at a time. We were late for work but we had to stay home by the TV to see the whole picture complete. At first, with only a few lines on the screen, you couldn't tell what you were looking at but after a while there was enough lines to see it was a photo of the foot of the lander. After a while, as the image building progressed from the bottom up, you could see dust on the landing pad and rocks and pebbles on the Martian surface near the foot. Someone at JPL yelled "rocks"!. This kind of thing is common place now but that was a first I had hoped and waited for since I was a child. I kept a large print of that image over my desk for many years. As the importance of that achievement sank in, it gave me great confidence in NASA and it increased my enthusiasm for what we would see them achieve in the years to come. It was also one of the reason why I didn't hesitate when I saw Sagan looking for members for the Planetary Society. I joined immediately. I was then and have remained very interested and enthusiastic about planetary exploration. I have not been disappointed. The intervening decades have been very exciting.


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