20 July 1976

Viking 1 lands successfully lands on Mars.

Viking 1 was the first American spacecraft to touch the surface of Mars, and the first spacecraft ever to remain there for the long term. It followed a series of short-lived Soviet probes that either landed or crashed into the surface in the decade before.

Its successful landing on July 20, 1976, provided a window into climatic conditions on the red planet. From Viking 1’s perch on Chryse Planitia, the lander spent six years beaming pictures, information and even life experiments back to Earth. Its life results are still being debated today.

An ambitious project, scaled down

NASA originally planned to head to Mars with an ambitious program called Voyager not to be confused with the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes that eventually soared to the outer edges of the solar system.

The agency proposed to use the Saturn V rocket — once used to hoist astronauts to the moon – to send Voyager to Mars. An orbiter would circle above as a lander touched the surface, where it would remain on the surface for at least a Martian year to observe the changing seasons. Project costs were estimated to be as high as $2 billion in 1970s dollars.

“I guess our eyes were too big for the budget there,” said Edgar Cortright in a 1998 NASA oral history. He held a series of senior human spaceflight positions at NASA in the 1960s before becoming director of the Langley Research Center between 1968 and 1975.

“There was a money crunch at the time,” he added. “We were lucky to get the money to do Viking, and that was a struggle.”

The mission concept was scaled back to two orbiters and two landers, launching on smaller rockets and designed to stay on Mars for 90 days. NASA estimates the cost was about $1 billion for the entire Viking project.

Viking 1 launch and landing

Viking 1’s Titan III-E rocket roared to life Aug. 20, 1975, as the spacecraft set forth on its nearly 500-million-mile journey to Mars. Fully fueled, the orbiter-lander duo weighed about 7,800 pounds. Viking 1’s twin, Viking 2, went into space on Sept. 9, 1975.

Viking 1’s lander was supposed to touch down on Mars on July 4. But as the spacecraft drew closer to Mars and began taking pictures of the landing site, the Viking 1 team worried about the spacecraft’s chances of making it safely to the surface.

The prime landing site at Chryse was based on looking at Mariner 9 pictures, which were taken in lower resolution. Viking 1’s view of the site showed the opposite of what planners wanted: “a deeply incised river bed,” according to On Mars, a NASA History Office publication detailing the early Mars missions.

Complicating matters was the fact that the landing date of July 4, 1976, happened to coincide with the bicentennial celebrations of the United States’ founding. Viking 1 was supposed to be a part of that, but of course, safety needed to be the primary consideration.

Mission planners voted to extend Viking 1’s landing date until a more suitable landing site could be found. They debated between a few sites and voted on July 12 for a location in Chryse Planitia, about 365 miles  west of where the lander was supposed to go.

Viking 1’s orbit was adjusted on July 16, and the spacecraft touched down safely on July 20, 1976. On that day, only seven years before, man stood on the moon for the first time.

Six years of science observations

Each Viking mission was only supposed to last 90 days after landing, but the landers and orbiters actually lasted for years. Their images and data on Mars would define our view of the planet for the next couple of decades.

From orbit, the Vikings provided a window into Mars’ tumultuous past. They took pictures of volcanoes and also imaged ancient channels where floods may have roared in ancient history. The cameras peered closer at the vast Valles Marineris, a 2,500-mile rift across Mars’ equator, taking snapshots of landslide sites and craters.

As for the Viking 1 lander, it sent back its first image of the surface just moments after landing, and took thousands more for scientists to process over its lifetime. Besides a seismometer experiment that refused to deploy properly, and early problems with a sampler pin, the experiments on board the lander remained healthy through its last day of transmissions on Nov. 13, 1982.

Viking 1’s results showed scientists a few surprises. There were a lot of rock types at its landing site, indicating that they probably had different origins. Day-to-day weather conditions on Mars were usually consistent, although there were seasonal variations. Winds were higher speed during the day and tended to die down at night. The lander detected magnetic particles in the soil, although scientists could not fully describe what the soil was made up of.

These results were important as they hinted at what a human would experience when walking upon the Red Planet. Dust storms, radiation and weather conditions are all things that will need to be considered when humans choose to make the journey to Mars.

NASA’s Viking probes were the first ever to successfully set footpad on Mars in a powered landing. The Viking 1 lander set down in July 1976 and didn’t go silent until November 1982. Viking 2 landed in September 1976 and kept working until April 1980. Credit: NASA

4 July 1976

The USA celebrates its Bicentennial.

The United States Bicentennial was a series of celebrations and observances during the mid-1970s that paid tribute to historical events leading up to the creation of the United States of America as an independent republic. It was a central event in the memory of the American Revolution. The Bicentennial culminated on Sunday, July 4, 1976, with the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

he nation had always commemorated the Founding, as a gesture of patriotism and sometimes as an argument in political battles. Historian Jonathan Crider points out that in the 1850s, editors and orators both North and South claimed their region was the true custodian of the legacy of 1776, as they used the Revolution symbolically in their rhetoric.

The plans for the Bicentennial began when Congress created the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission on July 4, 1966. Initially, the Bicentennial celebration was planned as a single city exposition that would be staged in either Philadelphia or Boston. After 6½ years of tumultuous debate, the Commission recommended that there should not be a single event, and Congress dissolved it on December 11, 1973, and created the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, which was charged with encouraging and coordinating locally sponsored events. David Ryan, a professor at University College Cork, notes that the Bicentennial was celebrated only a year after the humiliating withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975 and that the Ford administration stressed the themes of renewal and rebirth based on a restoration of traditional values, giving a nostalgic and exclusive reading of the American past.
On December 31, 1975, the eve of the Bicentennial Year, President Gerald Ford recorded a statement to address the American people by means of radio and television broadcasts. Presidential Proclamation 4411 was signed as an affirmation to the Founding Fathers of the United States principles of dignity, equality, government by representation, and liberty.

7 May 1976

The Honda Accord officially launched.

The Honda Accord is a series of automobiles manufactured by Honda since 1976, best known for its four-door sedan variant, which has been one of the best-selling cars in the United States since 1989. The Accord nameplate has been applied to a variety of vehicles worldwide, including coupes, wagons, hatchbacks and a crossover.

The first generation Honda Accord was launched on 7 May 1976 as a three-door hatchback with 68 hp, a 93.7-inch wheelbase, and a weight of about 2,000 pounds. Japanese market cars claimed 80 PS JIS, while European and other export markets received a model without emissions control equipment; it claimed 80 PS as well but according to the stricter DIN norm. It was a platform expansion of the earlier Honda Civic at 4,125 mm long. To comply with recently enacted emission regulations enacted in Japan, the engine was fitted with Honda’s CVCC technology. The Accord sold well due to its moderate size and great fuel economy. It was one of the first Japanese sedans with features like cloth seats, a tachometer, intermittent wipers, and an AM/FM radio as standard equipment. In 1978 an LX version of the hatchback was added which came with air conditioning, a digital clock, and power steering. Until the Accord, and the closely related Prelude, power steering had not been available to cars under two litres. Japanese buyers were liable for slightly more annual road tax over the smaller Civic, which had a smaller engine.

On 14 October 1977, a four-door sedan was added to the lineup, and power went to 72 hp when the 1,599 cc EF1 engine was supplemented and in certain markets replaced by the 1,751 cc an EK-1 unit. In 1980 the optional two-speed semi-automatic transmission of previous years became a three-speed fully automatic gearbox a four-speed automatic transaxle was not used in the Accord until the 1983 model year. The North American versions had slightly redesigned bumper trim. Other changes included new grilles and taillamps and remote mirrors added on the four-door and the LX models. The CVCC badges were deleted, but the CVCC induction system remained.

In North America, the 1981 model year only brought detail changes such as new fabrics and some new color combinations. Nivorno Beige was replaced by Oslo Ivory. Dark brown was discontinued, as was the bronze metallic. A bit later in 1981 an SE model was added for the first time, with Novillo leather seats and power windows. Base model hatchbacks, along with the four-door, LX, and SE four-door, all received the same smaller black plastic remote mirror. The instrument cluster was revised with mostly pictograms which replaced worded warning lights and gauge markings. The shifter was redesigned to have a stronger spring to prevent unintentional engagement of reverse, replacing the spring-loaded shift knob of the 1976 to 1980 model year cars. By 1981 power for the 1.8 was down to a claimed 68 hp in North America.

18 January 1976

Lebanese Christian militias kill at over 1000 in Karantina, Beirut.

The Ahrar and the Phalangist militias based in Damour and Dayr al Nama had been blocking the coastal road leading to southern Lebanon and the Chouf, and this turned them into a threat to the PLO and its leftist and nationalist allies in the Lebanese civil war. The Damour massacre was a response to the Karantina massacre of January 18, 1976, in which Phalangists killed from 1,000 up to 1,500 people.

It occurred as part of a series of events during the Lebanese Civil War, in which Palestinians joined the Muslim forces, in the context of the Christian-Muslim divide, and soon Beirut was divided along the Green Line, with Christian enclaves to the east and Muslims to the west.

Twenty Phalangist militiamen were executed, and then civilians were lined up against a wall and sprayed with machine-gun fire. None of the remaining inhabitants survived. An estimated 582 civilians died. Among the killed were family members of Elie Hobeika and his fiancée. Following the Battle of Tel al-Zaatar later the same year, the PLO resettled Palestinian refugees in Damour. After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the Zaatar refugees were expelled from Damour, and the original inhabitants brought back.

According to Thomas L. Friedman, the Phalangist Damouri Brigade, which carried out the Sabra and Shatila massacre during the 1982 Lebanon War sought revenge not only for the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, but also for what he describes as past tribal killings of their own people by Palestinians, including those at Damour.

According to an eyewitness, the attack took place from the mountain behind the town. “It was an apocalypse,” said Father Mansour Labaky, a Christian Maronite priest who survived the massacre. “They were coming, thousands and thousands, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar! Let us attack them for the Arabs, let us offer a holocaust to Mohammad!”, and they were slaughtering everyone in their path, men, women and children

3 September 1976

The Viking 2 spacecraft lands at Utopia Planitia on Mars.

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Fresh off the success with Viking 1, NASA landed on Mars again on Sept. 3, 1976 with Viking 2.

Sister ship to Viking 1, Viking 2 set down on the broad, flat plains of Utopia Planitia, where it snapped photos of morning frost and – like its predecessor – found a sterile soil that held no clear evidence of microbial life. The lander shut down in 1980.
CREDIT: NASA

NASA’s Viking 2 was a joint orbiter-lander mission that saw the second U.S. landing on Mars on Sept. 3, 1976. Viking 2’s lander touched the Red Planet just weeks after its sibling, Viking 1.

The lander spent more than three Earth years on the surface taking pictures of the surrounding area, analyzing the regolith in front of it, and even conducting life experiments. Meanwhile, the orbiter snapped shots of craters, channels and other Mars features from above.

The Viking program provided the first up-close look at Mars, for several years running. It gave researchers a sense of what it is like to live and work on the Red Planet.

When Vikings 1 and 2 sent back the results of their life experiments, NASA said at the time that there was no definitive evidence of life. That’s been called into question in the decades since.The entire Viking program hardware – two orbiters and two landers – cost $1 billion in 1970s dollars, or anywhere from $4 billion to $6 billion today.

While that is a large sum, this is actually half the cost of a proposed NASA Mars landing program called Voyager.
Voyager was supposed to fly to Mars using a Saturn V rocket, the same rocket that took astronauts to the moon between 1968 and 1972. The Voyager lander would last two Earth years on the surface.

However, NASA had less money to go around after the Apollo program finished and congressional priorities shifted. The agency was facing a money crunch, and elected to shelve the program in favor of something simpler.

That’s not to say that Viking was unambitious. If all went as planned, NASA would do two “soft” landings on Mars – something the agency had never attempted before. The landers would function for at least 90 Earth days or 120 Martian “sols” on the surface. Meanwhile, the orbiters would carry the landers to Mars and send scientific information back to Earth.

5 June 1976

The Teton Dam in the Fremont and Madison counties in Idaho, United States, collapses.

Teton Dam, a 305-foot high earthfill dam across the Teton River in Madison County, southeast Idaho, failed completely and released the contents of its reservoir at 11:57 AM on June 5, 1976. Failure was initiated by a large leak near the right (northwest) abutment of the dam, about 130 feet below the crest. The dam, designed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, failed just as it was being completed and filled for the first time.

Eyewitnesses noticed the first major leak between 7:30 and 8:AM, June 5, although two days earlier engineers at the dam observed small springs in the right abutment downstream from the toe of the dam. The main leak was flowing about 20-30 cfs from rock in the right abutment near the toe of the dam and above the abutment-embankment contact. The flow increased to 40-50 cfs by 9 AM. At about the same time, 2 cfs seepage issued from the rock in the right abutment, approximately 130 feet below the crest of the dam at the abutment-embankment contact.

Between 9:30 and 10 AM, a wet spot developed on the downstream face of the dam, 15 to 20 feet out from the right abutment at about the same elevation as the seepage coming from the right abutment rock. This wet spot developed rapidly into seepage, and material soon began to slough, and erosion proceeded back into the dam embankment. The water quantity increased continually as the hole grew. Efforts to fill the increasing hole in the embankment were futile during the following 2 to 2 1/2 hour period until failure. The sheriff of Fremont County (St. Anthony, Idaho) said that his office was officially warned of the pending collapse of the dam at 10:43 AM on June 5. The sheriff of Madison County, Rexburg, Idaho, was not notified until 10:50 AM on June 5. He said that he did not immediately accept the warning as valid but concluded that while the matter was not too serious, he should begin telephoning people he knew who lived in the potential flood path.

The dam breached at 11:57 AM when the crest of the embankment fell into the enlarging hole and a wall of water surged through the opening. By 8 PM the flow of water through the breach had nearly stabilized. Downstream the channel was filled at least to a depth of 30 feet for a long distance. About 40 percent of the dam embankment was lost, and the powerhouse and warehouse structure were submerged completely in debris.

26 November 1976

The Sex Pistols release “Anarchy in the U.K.”, heralding the arrival of punk rock in the UK.

anarchyintheukposter

By late 1976, bands such as Television and the Ramones in New York City, and the Sex Pistols. They were recognized as the vanguard of a new musical movement. The following year saw punk rock spreading around the world, and it became a major cultural phenomenon in the United Kingdom. One of the most iconic singles in the history of punk music was released and the Sex Pistols were launched on a trajectory towards equal measures of fame and notoriety.Anarchy in the UK may have only edged into the Top 40, reaching the not-so-heady heights of 38, but its cultural impact still reverberates.It was the musical detonation of frustration at the status quo. It wasn’t the articulation of a manifesto for a new economics but a wrecking ball of a song that these musicians aimed straight at the establishment. This spectacle of rebellion shocked Britain but four decades on the Sex Pistols back catalogue could provide the soundtrack for a new season of revolt.