Exploring the Planets

Mars Landers: Working on the Surface

Landers and rovers bring our point of view down to ground level. They have performed on-site experiments and given us crystal-clear views of the Martian landscape.


Two Viking spacecraft, each with an orbiter and lander, arrived at Mars in 1976. The landers were the first craft to operate on Mars for extended periods. They provided images, weather information, and other data for over four years (Lander 1) and six years (Lander 2). They also performed experiments to search for evidence of life. The results were mostly negative, but remain inconclusive.


Viking Lander

A Viking Lander similar to the two that landed on Mars in 1976 is on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.

Mars Surface

Windblown sand and rocky terrain at the Viking 1 landing site.
Viking 1
NASA image

The Phoenix Mars Lander set down in the arctic region of Mars in 2008. Its mission was to study the history of polar ice deposits and their impact on the Martian climate, and whether this region could ever have supported life. It operated for five months, collecting data on soil properties and sending back over 25,000 images of polar terrain, rocks, and soil.

The Phoenix Mars Lander

The Phoenix Mars Lander.
NASA artwork