Revised Viking landing site yields accurate maps for Mars


  • Jürgen Oberst,

  • Wolfgang Zeitler,

  • Tim Parker


A new generation of geometrically accurate maps for Mars is in the works thanks to data from the Mars Pathfinder and a mapping project involving reanalyzing images obtained by the Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. During the mapping project it was discovered that the location of the Viking Lander 1 (VL1) on Mars, adopted after its landing in 1976 [Morris, 1980], was not correct. The location represented a basis for previous mapping efforts and is perhaps partially responsible for the poor precision of current maps of the planet.

Availability of maps with good geometric accuracy is of immediate practical importance for pointing orbiting cameras toward specific targets depicted in the maps. Precise maps are also crucial for planning future missions to the surface, such as the Mars Polar Lander, as it is desirable to direct the spacecraft to a specific landing site seen in the maps. Prototypes of new maps of Mars have a geometric accuracy of 1–3 km.