Viking '75 Mars Lander Surface Sampler Collector Head

Just plain Brilliant!!

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Wow these models are amazing, how much more do you have to do before it’s completed?

Hi Liam, there is a great deal remaining to do! It’s not quite half complete. At the pace I’ve been going, probably another five or six years. I started the overall model (of which this Surface Sampler is just a small portion) almost exactly four years ago; the surface sampler took eight months of my evenings etc. I started serious research in 2011.

I occasionally detour myself into side projects. For example during the past three months I’ve been working on a video explaining how the surface sampler works. About 12 minutes of that “documentary” are done, with three or so more to go. I’ll post a link here when the video is ready.


Oh well keep it up it’s going to be great when it’s finished worth all of the time put in!

I have completed a detail video (nearly 18 minutes long) that demonstrates how the Viking '75 Mars lander’s surface sampler operates. The demos are done with my SketchUp model. Most of the animation was created using @Fredo6’s Animator extension. Two of the scenes (unwinding of the flat conductor cable, and backhoe trenching) were created with @Anton_S’s MSPhysics extension.


Wow! Awesome piece of work.

I think @TDahl should be invited to the next SketchUp Basecamp as a presenter, all expenses paid.

Thanks for uploading and sharing this video, I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Tom Dahl, this is one of the best pieces of work I ever seen!

The level of engineering and sophistication put into the viking lander is absolutely astounding!

Great work!

Absolutely brilliant! I’ve previously expressed my admiration for your effort in recreating the lander and it’s subsystems, and the dedication, quality and tenacity with which you’ve pursued each aspect.

But this takes it an extra step further. The advanced animation skills you’ve gained, when applied to the highly detailed mechanisms (modelled with such fidelity) — and some fine video production quality — combine to make the workings of this very complex machine crystal clear …even to a layman. (me!)

Congrats on producing such a successful result. Really astounding, educational and inspirational stuff!

I watched this with my jaw dropping at the detail of the drawing, the quality of the animation, and the clarity of narrative.

Superb. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing it.

This is one of the best Sketchup models I have ever seen!

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I’m absolutely floored at not only the level of detail and complexity you have created in the model, but how well thought out and comprehensive your explanation is. This is stunning work, thank you!

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Thank you for the compliments, folks - much appreciated!

I have shared the video with one of the chief designers of the Viking surface sampler (at Martin Marietta Aerospace near Denver) and with the sampler team leader during Viking’s primary mission (he was a NASA Langley Research Center employee; Langley was the home of the Viking Project Office). It’s a privilege to be in contact with them (and they enjoyed the video too :slightly_smiling_face:).


Brilliant work! Thanks so much for sharing.

Fantastic work and video Tom. Thanks for sharing with us.

Tom, this deserves a SKETCHUP ACADEMY AWARD…


How long would a project like that take?

Years and years!

@mics_54 Hi Michael, do you mean the video? This is a spare-time hobby (though a fairly serious one); creating the video consumed about four months of some weekends and evenings. Modeling the sampler hardware in SketchUp (the collector head and its shroud, the boom, the housing) took well over a year of similar evening and weekend time. Modeling the other parts of the Viking lander seen in the video has taken an additional three years.

Thanks for all the compliments, folks. I was pleased to be invited to write a short blog introducing the video for The Planetary Society. And the kind SketchUp folks tweeted the video recently. Golly.