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Field Trip to Mars

Mars Pathfinder: Mission

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The Mars Pathfinder landed on Mars in July, 1997 and began a successful mission of exploration. Find out about the landing site, the mission and the Sojourner rover by clicking the links below.

Click for Mars Pathfinder Overview and Landing Site
Mars
Pathfinder
Click for Mars Pathfinder Mission
Pathfinder
Mission
Click for Sojourner Rover
Sojourner
Rover

Pathfinder Mission Overview

This overview of the Pathfinder project is quoted from NASA/JPL. Click on image for a detail view.

Click for larger image of Mars Pathfinder diagram

"Mars Pathfinder was originally designed as a technology demonstration of a way to deliver an instrumented lander and a free-ranging robotic rover to the surface of the red planet. Pathfinder not only accomplished this goal but also returned an unprecedented amount of data and outlived its primary design life.

Sojourner rover at Yogi rockFrom landing until the final data transmission on September 27, 1997, Mars Pathfinder returned 2.3 billion bits of information, including more than 16,500 images from the lander and 550 images from the rover, as well as more than 15 chemical analyses of rocks and soil and extensive data on winds and other weather factors. Findings from the investigations carried out by scientific instruments on both the lander and the rover suggest that Mars was at one time in its past warm and wet, with water existing in its liquid state and a thicker atmosphere."

In the image at right, the Sojourner rover inspects the rock NASA scientists called "Yogi". The rock is about 1 meter (3 feet) high and approximately 6.5 meters (20 feet) from the lander. The rover is 30 centimeters (1 foot) tall.

Pathfinder landing area mapThe Mars Pathfinder landed about the center of this NASA map where the black arrow indicates. Note the islands and channels as well as the craters in the map. The NASA scientists and engineers were very cautious when selecting the site so that a safe landing could be achieved.

The landing used a unique combination of heatshield, parachute and rockets to slow down during entry and airbags to cushion the fall. The lander bounced about 16 times and landed upright where it unfolded. The Sojourner rover was guided down a ramp the next day to begin exploration of the surface.

The lander carried an imager (camera), magnets for measuring magnetic properties of soil, wind socks, and an atmospheric structure instrument/meteorology package. The rover carried an Alpha Proton X-ray spectrometer (APXS), three cameras and technology experiments.

Major Mission Characteristics

Launch Period Primary Mission Trajectory
December 2 - 31, 1996 Land On Mars - July 4, 1997 6-7 Months
Launch Vehicle Complete Surface Mission End Of Project
Delta II - 7925 August 1997 September 1998

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For more information, check out:
Mars Pathfinder
Viking, Pathfinder and other Mars missions
NASA Planet Facts.


Click for Mars Pathfinder Overview and Landing Site
Mars
Pathfinder
Click for Mars Pathfinder Mission
Pathfinder
Mission
Click for Sojourner Rover
Sojourner
Rover

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