On July 20, 1976, at 8:12 a.m. EDT, NASA received the signal that the Viking Lander 1 successfully reached the Martian surface. This major milestone represented the first time the United States successfully landed a vehicle on the surface of Mars, collecting an overwhelming amount of data that would soon be used in future NASA missions. Upon touchdown, Viking 1 took its first picture of the dusty and rocky surface and relayed the historic image back to Earthlings eagerly awaiting its arrival. Viking 1, and later Viking Orbiter 2, collected an abundance of high-resolution imagery and scientific data, blazing a trail that will one day take humans to Mars.
This color image of the Martian surface in the Chryse area was taken by Viking Lander 1, looking southwest, about 15 minutes before sunset on the evening of Aug. 21.