In 1976, NASA's Viking 1 Lander (V1L) was the first spacecraft to operate successfully on the Martian surface. The V1L landed near the terminus of an enormous catastrophic flood channel, Maja Valles. However, instead of the expected megaflood record, its cameras imaged a boulder-strewn surface of elusive origin. We identified a 110-km-diameter impact crater (Pohl) ~ 900 km northeast of the landing site, stratigraphically positioned (a) above catastrophic flood-eroded surfaces formed ~ 3.4 Ga during a period of northern plains oceanic inundation and (b) below the younger of two previously hypothesized megatsunami deposits. These stratigraphic relationships suggest that a marine impact likely formed the crater. Our simulated impact-generated megatsunami run-ups closely match the mapped older megatsunami deposit's margins and predict fronts reaching the V1L site. The site's location along a highland-facing lobe aligned to erosional grooves supports a megatsunami origin. Our mapping also shows that Pohl's knobby rim regionally represents a broader history of megatsunami modification involving circum-oceanic glaciation and sedimentary extrusions extending beyond the recorded megatsunami emplacement in Chryse Planitia. Our findings allow that rocks and soil salts at the landing site are of marine origin, inviting the scientific reconsideration of information gathered from the first in-situ measurements on Mars.
- Planetary science