LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – Lockheed Martin is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its Viking lander.

Viking 1 was the first spacecraft to land on Mars, and it has influenced almost every mission to the red planet since.

“They were going to a place no one had ever been before, through an atmosphere and environment that no one had ever sampled or understood,” said Tim Priser, deputy manager for the Mars InSight lander, the next scheduled mission to Mars.

Priser works in the same building at Lockheed Martin that was built specifically for the development of the Viking spacecraft in the 1960s.

“This really was an aerospace mecca and has been ever since,” he said.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

The Viking arrived on Mars on July 20, 1976, and continued to send back data about the red planet for years.

The experiments completed at the time provided invaluable information — never known before — using first-of-its kind technology.

“The thermal protection system, the parachute, all of that stuff has been reused because the physics they used then to design it are still the physics that are valid today,” he said.

Tim Priser (credit: CBS)

Tim Priser (credit: CBS)

Priser says Viking has also set a standard for the future.

“It is akin to what we are attempting to do now with putting humans on Mars. There are a lot of things we need to develop — that will have to be invented, quite frankly — to protect the humans. Back then it was the spacecraft,” Priser said.

InSight is scheduled to launch in May 2017.

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