In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, a technician checks the soil sampler of the Viking lander. An arm will scoop up a sample of the Martian soil, empty it into a hopper on the lander which will route the sample to each of the three scientific instruments, biology, gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer and water analysis.
NASA's Viking Lander was designed, fabricated, and tested by the Martin Marietta Corp. of Denver, Colorado, under the direction of the Viking Progect Office at Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia. The Lander drew heavily on the experience gained from the Ranger, Surveyor and the Apollo Programs in the areas of radar, altimeters, facsimile, cameras, soil samplers, landing gear, etc.
Each weekday, SPACE.com looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).