Former NASA manager of the Viking missions to Mars,
James S. Martin, Jr., died April 14, in Rising Sun, Md.,
after a long battle with cancer. Martin was 81.

Viking 1 and Viking 2, twin spacecraft launched to Mars in
1975, reached the Red Planet a year later. The two orbiting
spacecraft provided the first global maps of Mars and when
the two Viking landers touched down on the Martian surface,
they made history by becoming the first successful mission
to soft-land on the surface of another planet. Martin led
this unprecedented effort and its 750-person nationwide team
of NASA, industry and university engineers, scientists and

“America lost a great explorer and superb leader in space
exploration, and those around the world who push back the
frontiers of the unknown mourn the loss of Jim Martin,” said
Dr. Ed Weiler, Associate Administrator for Space Science,
NASA Headquarters, Washington. “He will always be remembered
as a giant among space explorers. He was able, against
tremendous odds and obstacles, to succeed with perhaps the
most ambitious space mission ever attempted. The legacy of
Viking, and Jim Martin, lives on in our new Mars Exploration

The Viking landers and orbiters operated in orbit and on the
surface of Mars for over five years, laying laid the
groundwork for more recent NASA successes including Mars
Pathfinder, the rover Sojourner, the Mars Global Surveyor
orbiter, and the 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter which launched in
April 2001.

“Jim Martin was the epitome of leadership,” said Tom Young,
Viking’s mission director and former president of Lockheed
Martin, on the occasion of the project’s silver anniversary
in July. “Jim had the experience. He knew what it took to
make a project successful. He had the strength and the
integrity to do those things that were necessary to make it

Martin joined NASA’s Langley Research Center in September
1964 as assistant project manager for Lunar Orbiter. The
five successful Lunar Orbiter missions provided significant
new information about the Moon’s surface and a wealth of
photographic detail that stood as the definitive source of
lunar surface information for years. In recognition of his
contribution to this project, Martin was awarded the NASA
Exceptional Service Medal in 1967.

Martin was born in Washington, D.C. on June 21, 1920. He
earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from
the University of Michigan in 1942. He later completed the
Harvard Graduate School of Business Middle Management

From 1942 to 1964, Martin worked for Republic Aviation
Corporation, assuming greater responsibility first as
assistant chief technical engineer, then chief research
engineers and, finally, as manager of space systems

Martin left NASA in 1976 to become vice president of
advanced programs and planning, for Martin Marietta
Aerospace, Bethesda, Md. In 2000, Martin was asked by NASA
to come out of retirement and lead the effort to restructure
the agency’s Mars Exploration Program. He is survived by his
wife Frieda and their children Neil Martin (now an employee
at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.) and
Laurie Martin.