America's unmanned 'Viking' space mission to Mars is entering its final stages for landing two craft on the planet later this year.
LV Mars (animation)
(Animation) CU Viking I and Viking II going to Mars
Animation of Viking landing
CU Viking II circling planet (3 shots)
CU Dr. Carl Sagan speaking.
SOF STARTS: "I think the one thing.....
SOF ENDS:....of life are possible"
GV SV CU control room with people working (5 shots)
CU SV computer room and operator
GV Control room
SAGAN: "I think the one thing that is very likely is that if Mars does have life, it will be a life very different from the sort we have here. All the life on Earth is the same kind of life. On the outside, we think we are pretty different. The oak trees, and the petunias and the bears and the people we have the sense they are different kinds of organisms. But we're not. On the inside we are all the same. We use the same kind of biochemical molecules. What we do not know is whether those are the only kinds of molecules that can make biology go or whether there is a vast variety of possible biologies of which ours is only a single case. Since you do not have enough time to let life evolve in the laboratory, the only way to test such questions is to go somewhere else and see what natural experiments nature has done for us on the surface of another planet. That's to my mind one of the most exciting aspects of the exploration of Mars, the opportunity to find out what other kinds of life are possible."
Initials RH/1822 RH/JB/PNG/1836
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: America's unmanned 'Viking' space mission to Mars is entering its final stages for landing two craft on the planet later this year.
The Viking Control Centre is in Pasadena, California. It is there that the mission's progress is constantly monitored. Recently, all of the Centre's staff spent eleven days rehearsing the first Viking landing.
Viking One was launched last August and is now about 111 million miles (about 180 million kilometres) from Mars. Viking Two launched last September is trailing close behind. Both craft are travelling at a speed of 59,000 miles per hour (95,000 kilometres per hour).
The Vikings are due to go into orbit around Mars on 19 June and 7 August respectively. Viking One's landing craft is scheduled to land on America's 200th. anniversary of Independence - 4 July, 1976.
Both craft have equipment used for probing the planet's surface in search of any evidence of life. Soil samples taken at the landing will be examined and the results transmitted to Earth.
Part of this film is serviced with a commentary by Dr. Carl sagan, Director of Planetary Studies at Cornell University and one of the Viking scientists. A transcript appears below.
SYNOPSIS: The planet Mars.....soon it's hoped to reveal some of its secrets. Two unmanned American spacecraft - Vikings One and Two - are preparing to go into orbit around Mars later this year. Viking One is due to land its probe craft on the planet on America's bicentennial day - 4 July. The second should land two months later. One of the mission's scientists - Dr Carl Sagan - explained recently what it is hoped the probes will reveal about Mars.
The Viking Control Centre in Pasadena monitors the mission's progress continuously. A full dress-rehearsal for the first landing took place and lasted eleven days. If all goes well, tests carried out by the Vikings could reveal if life does exist on Mars.