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On Mars: Exploration of the Red Planet. 1958-1978

Reorganization and the Creation of Viking
[121] The cancellation of Voyager wiped clean NASA's slate of proposed planetary missions. An unthinkable turn of events, it gave the space agency a unique opportunity to redefine its planetary goals and evaluate the wisdom of earlier projected activities. But, unlike the early 1960s when Voyager was conceived, NASA planners by the end of 1967 had a technological and scientific base on which to build. The nearby planets were not as much a mystery as they had been at the beginning of the decade. And the agency had several proven launch vehicles from which to choose. But more significant, NASA engineers and scientists better understood the technology of spacecraft designed to explore deep space.
An eager group at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia was anxious to seek alternative missions to replace the Voyager series, and at the top of their list of possibilities was a Mars landing craft. Having participated on the fringes of the agency's Mars activities for several years, the Langley group created its own new series of proposals, from which the Viking spacecraft evolved. As with many other aspects of NASA's planetary program, Viking's heritage was tied to the many projects-both successful and unsuccessful-that preceded it. At Langley, Viking's roots extended back to 1964, three years before Voyager was canceled.