Scratchbuilt Viking Lander

When I was an engineering student at the University of Arizona, NASA landed two Viking spacecraft on the surface of Mars. Somehow, while taking a full load of engineering classes, I managed to scratchbuild a 1/12th scale model of the Viking lander. I had no real dimensional data, and relied heavier on photos, some non-scale drawings and a few key dimensions. After making my own set of drawings, I constructed the model from sheet plastic and aluminum rod, Plastruct beams, and several vac-formed parts of my own creation. The model was completed in the Spring of 1977.

Here are a few secrets: The main antenna dish was cut out of the bottom of a can of Mountain Dew. The landing pads were vac-formed from Humbrol paint tin lids. The two fuel tanks are ping pong balls. The nozzles on the landing engines were scrounged from several 1/96th scale Revell Apollo CSM kits (these are the RCS nozzles from the LM and SM). The wind covers on the RTGs are vac-formed over a wooden master that I carved. The landing legs are spring-loaded and hinged so that they have a working shock-absorber function. The soil sampling boom is hinged and it rotates, and the weather boom hinge works. The idea was to show the Lander in the configuration immediately after landing, and then with everything deployed. I had an alternate mount for the main antenna for this, too.

Both of these photos were taken in a dirt lot across from my dorm in Tucson, where the red Arizona soil nicely simulated the Martian surface.

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This page created Nov. 23, 2002