Space History Photo: Viking 1 Picture of the Martian Surface

space history, nasa, viking
This color picture of the Martian horizon was taken by Viking 1 on July 24, 1976. (Image credit: NASA.)

In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, Viking 1 obtained this color picture of the Martian surface and sky on July 24, 1976. Camera number 1 facing southeast captured part of the gray structured spacecraft in the foreground. A bright orange cable leads to one of the descent rocket engines.

Orange-red surface materials cover most of the surface, apparently forming a thin veneer over dark bedrock. A zone of large dark boulders is present in the far-field. The sky has a reddish cast, which is probably due to scattering and reflection from reddish sediment suspended in the lower atmosphere. This picture had been radiometrically calibrated, using information on camera performance acquired before launch. Although the colors are very vivid the fidelity with which the bright orange cable is reproduced suggests the intense colors of the Martian surface.

Each weekday, looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

NASA Archives
U.S. Space Agency

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the U.S. government agency in charge of the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Founded in 1958, NASA is a civilian space agency aimed at exploring the universe with space telescopes,  satellites, robotic spacecraft, astronauts and more. The space agency has 10 major centers based across the U.S. and launches robotic and crewed missions from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida. It's astronaut corps is based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. To follow NASA's latest mission, follow the space agency on Twitter or any other social channel, of visit: