Year
1976
Month Day
July 20

Viking 1 lands on Mars

On the seventh anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, the Viking 1 lander, an unmanned U.S. planetary probe, successfully lands on the surface of Mars.

Viking 1 was launched on August 20, 1975, and arrived at Mars on June 19, 1976. The first month of its orbit was devoted to imaging the surface to find appropriate landing sites. On July 20, 1976, the Viking 1 lander separated from the orbiter, touched down on the Chryse Planitia region of Mars, and sent back the first close-up photographs of the rust-colored Martian surface.

In September 1976, Viking 2—launched only three weeks after Viking 1—entered into orbit around Mars, where it assisted Viking 1 in imaging the surface and also sent down a lander. During the dual Viking missions, the two orbiters imaged the entire surface of Mars at a resolution of 150 to 300 meters, and the two landers sent back more than 1,400 images of the planet’s surface.

READ MORE: How Many Times Has the US Landed on the Moon? 

Tags
terms:
Space

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Pierre Lallement, inventor of the bicycle, arrives in the U.S.

On July 20, 1865, a Frenchman named Pierre Lallement arrives in the United States, carrying the plans and components for the first modern bicycle. Lallement constructed and patented the first bicycle in the United States, but received no significant reward or recognition for ...read more

Aurora shooting leaves 12 dead, 70 wounded

On July 20, 2012, gunman James Holmes started a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, a Denver suburb, killing 12 people—the youngest a 6-year-old girl—and injuring at least 70 others. The Aurora shooting took place shortly after the start of a crowded midnight showing of ...read more

Jan and Dean’s “Surf City” hits #1

“Two girls for every boy!” went the immortal opening line from Jan and Dean’s “Surf City,” the song that reached the top of the U.S. pop charts on July 20, 1963. It was a claim that wasn’t actually supported by the facts, but it helped create a popular image of California as a ...read more

Sitting Bull surrenders

Five years after General George A. Custer’s infamous defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Hunkpapa Teton Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrenders to the U.S. Army, which promises amnesty for him and his followers. Sitting Bull had been a major leader in the 1876 Sioux uprising ...read more

Neil Armstrong walks on moon

At 10:56 p.m. EDT, American astronaut Neil Armstrong, 240,000 miles from Earth, speaks these words to more than a billion people listening at home: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Stepping off the lunar landing module Eagle, Armstrong became the first ...read more

President Nixon watches first lunar landing

On July 20, 1969, President Richard Nixon, along with millions of others, watches as two American astronauts walk on the moon. Later that evening, Nixon recorded succinctly in his diary “the President held an interplanetary conversation with Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong ...read more

Homesteaders murdered by Wyoming ranchers

Having made the mistake of homesteading on land previously controlled by a Wyoming cattle king, homesteaders Ella Watson and James Averell are accused of rustling and hanged. As the days of the open range cattle industry faded, conflicts between powerful western cattle barons and ...read more

Actor and martial-arts expert Bruce Lee dies at age 32

On July 20, 1973, the actor and martial-arts expert Bruce Lee dies in Hong Kong at age 32 from a brain edema possibly caused by a reaction to a prescription painkiller. During Lee’s all-too-brief career, he became a movie star in Asia and, posthumously, in America. Jun Fan ...read more

Second great flood hits Johnstown

A flash flood hits Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on July 20, 1977, killing 84 people and causing millions of dollars in damages. This flood came 88 years after the infamous Great Flood of 1889 that killed more than 2,000 people in Johnstown. As they had in the first flood, the dams ...read more

A serial-killing couple is apprehended

Alton Coleman and Debra Brown are apprehended in Evanston, Illinois, after a particularly vicious two-month crime spree that left eight people dead and many more injured. Coleman had been added to the special eleventh slot on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List for actively dangerous ...read more

President Truman issues peacetime draft

President Harry S. Truman institutes a military draft with a proclamation calling for nearly 10 million men to register for military service within the next two months. Truman’s action came during increasing Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union. Following World War II, the ...read more

Assassination plot against Hitler fails

On July 20, 1944, Hitler cheats death as a bomb planted in a briefcase goes off, but fails to kill him. High German officials had made up their minds that Hitler must die. He was leading Germany in a suicidal war on two fronts, and assassination was the only way to stop him. A ...read more