The first of two Viking spacecraft that will land on Mars next year was launched from Cape Canaveral, U.
The first of two Viking spacecraft that will land on Mars next year was launched from Cape Canaveral, U.S.A. on Wednesday (20 August).
The launch, which followed two earlier postponements because of component malfunctions, went smoothly and exactly on schedule.
On board the Viking rocket is the first robot biological laboratory ever designed to land on another planet.
The highly sensitive equipment will be able to detect if there is, or ever has been, life on Mars.
The Mars probe is the most expensive and ambitious ever devised for exploring the solar system.
Viking 11 will be launched in about ten days time and will join the sister ship in a 505,000,000 mile, year-long journey .. touching down on Mars during celebrations for the 200th anniversary of American independence.
The instruments on the craft will take pictures and carry out detailed scientific tests with material scooped from the planet's surface by robot arms.
The two interrelated questions uppermost in the scientists' minds are: Is Mars in the middle of an ice-age, and is there evidence of forms of life, even though they may be lying dormant under the ice?