Sunday, March 27, 2016

Greatest Mid-1970s Launch Photo Ever? Behold This Titan IIIE/Centaur Doin' Its Thang

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