PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
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NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
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Engineers have concluded that communications cannot be reestablished with NASA's Viking Lander 1 (the Thomas A. Mutch Memorial Station) on Mars, after several months of unsuccessful efforts at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to regain contact.
Communications with Viking Lander 1, which touched down on Mars July 20, 1976, were lost in November 1982, and engineers at JPL have been trying since then to contact the station, without success.
Engineers have repeatedly sent commands to the spacecraft in attempts to reestablish contact. The command sequences were based on detailed studies of possible failure modes.
The lack of success has led to the conclusion that communications with the lander probably cannot be achieved.
However, the lander does have an internal program that will initiate transmissions to Earth without commands from Earth. In the event that the lander is still operating, engineers at JPL will listen on May 5, the first time such automatic transmission would occur. One week later, in case the lander is operating but could not initiate communications on its own, engineers will command the lander to switch to different components of its transmitter, in the event some of those components have failed.
Viking Lander 1 was launched to Mars in August 1975. It landed on the Martian surface at Chryse Planitia, on July 20, 1976, and was joined by lander 2 on Sept. 3, 1976. Both landers conducted the most thorough examination of another planet ever undertaken.
Viking Lander 1 was renamed the Mutch Memorial Station in memory of Dr. Thomas A. Mutch, former Viking Lander Imaging Team leader, and former Associate Administrator of NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications. Dr. Mutch disappeared during an attempt to climb Nun Kun, peak in the Himalayas, in September 1980.