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Slide 6 of 16
Both Viking landers touched down on the surface of the planet in the middle of 1976. Since a major factor increasing the chances of finding life is the presence of liquid water, the best places for the Vikings to look for signs of life would have been in ancient river beds or in the polar ice caps. However, such locations were also the most dangerous sites for the spacecraft to land and the risk was significant that both landers could have been lost as had occurred during Soviet attempts (Mars 2 and Mars 3) to land on the planet five years earlier. Therefore, because landing anywhere on Mars was risky enough, safer landing sites were chosen - Viking 1 landed in Chryse Planitia and Viking 2 landed in Utopia Planitia.