From NASA: “On August 20, 1975, Viking 1 was launched by a Titan/Centaur rocket from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5:22 p.m. EDT to begin a half-billion mile, 11-month journey through space to explore Mars. The 4-ton spacecraft went into orbit around the red planet in mid-1976.” Photo Credit: NASA

This itty-bitty version doesn’t do it justice, but in my estimation, this is one of the most spectacular launch photos of all time (for a larger hi-resolution version, check out this link). The Titan IIIE/Centaur, THE magnificent launch vehicle of the mid-1970s, is seen here lofting one of the decade’s iconic spacecraft on course for an unprecedented journey to Mars. In addition, the summer-y, late afternoon pastel colors and Florida palm trees are nice aesthetic touches.

FUN FACT: The Vikings were originally meant to be launched aboard the Saturn V launch vehicles, known for the launching the Apollo Moon missions and the Skylab space station into space (i.e. LOTS of hardware). The Vikings (each an orbiter/lander combination) were without question the most massive interplanetary missions of their era. 

This Titan/Centaur combo would be used for other long-distance space treks (the Helios probes, and both Voyagers). Sadly, this beast of a launch vehicle was last used for the Voyager 1 launch in September 1977. I still have a model of the mighty Titan IIIE/Centaur in my house.

I’ll be writing a bit more about Viking program in the near future. For now, enjoy another photo of a beast at work (different spacecraft, same launch vehicle):

Once again, click on the image or this link for a better look. Viking 2 launches, also utilizing a Titan IIIE/Centaur, from CCAFS’ LC-41 on Sept. 9, 1975. Photo Credit: NASA

Emily Carney is a writer, space enthusiast, and creator of the This Space Available space blog, published since 2010. In January 2019, Emily’s This Space Available blog was incorporated into the National Space Society’s blog. The content of Emily’s blog can be accessed via the This Space Available blog category.

Note: The views expressed in This Space Available are those of the author and should not be considered as representing the positions or views of the National Space Society.

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