[ix] It is difficult for me to believe
that there is already a written history of the Viking program.
After all, the Vikings landed on Mars in 1976 just a few years
ago. The Viking 1 lander, designed for a 90-day surface mission,
actually transmitted science messages to Earth for seven years.
That such an extended mission was even possible is a crowning
tribute to the people of Viking, in government, industry, and
academia. This history is largely the story of those people of
Viking, how they faced and dealt, emotionally at times, with
technical problems, with adversity in the form of budget and
people troubles, and with the political world. It is all too easy
to forget these things in the face of gleaming, sophisticated
spacecraft successfully performing their miracles in orbit around
and on the surface of Mars.
This is indeed the time to capture the
Viking history, for the memories of those who spent almost a
decade with the program will rapidly fade, most have already moved
on to new ventures, and relevant documents will disappear. The
Viking history is of interest not only as the story of how the
first planetary landing came to fruition or of how the first
in-situ search for evidence of extraterrestrial life came about,
but as a Iesson on how thousands of individuals performed as a
coherent team to accomplish what some believed to be
Associate Administrator for
Space Science, NASA 1974-1979.