Mars Pathfinder

Sojourner on Mars

Mars Pathfinder

The Mars Pathfinder mission demonstrated a new landing technique and showed that it was possible to send a robotic wheeled rover to explore another planet.

Before it hit the Martian surface in 1997, a cluster of airbags inflated and enveloped the probe. Already slowed by its heat shield, parachutes and rockets, the craft bounced across Mars until it came to rest. The lander opened and sent a robotic vehicle, Sojourner, down a ramp to photograph and sample the surface.

Photo: Sojourner leaves tracks on Mars (NASA/JPL)

Watch and listen to clips from past programmes TV clips [1]

Sojourner on Mars

About Mars Pathfinder

A pioneering Mars rover bounces down.

About Mars Pathfinder

Mars Pathfinder (MESUR Pathfinder) is an American robotic spacecraft that landed a base station with a roving probe on Mars in 1997. It consisted of a lander, renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station, and a lightweight (10.6 kg/23 lb) wheeled robotic Mars rover named Sojourner, which became the first rover to operate outside the Earth–Moon system.

Launched on December 4, 1996 by NASA aboard a Delta II booster a month after the Mars Global Surveyor was launched, it landed on July 4, 1997 on Mars's Ares Vallis, in a region called Chryse Planitia in the Oxia Palus quadrangle. The lander then opened, exposing the rover which conducted many experiments on the Martian surface. The mission carried a series of scientific instruments to analyze the Martian atmosphere, climate, geology and the composition of its rocks and soil. It was the second project from NASA's Discovery Program, which promotes the use of low-cost spacecraft and frequent launches under the motto "cheaper, faster and better" promoted by the then administrator, Daniel Goldin. The mission was directed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology, responsible for NASA's Mars Exploration Program. The project manager was JPL's Tony Spear.

This mission was the first of a series of missions to Mars that included rovers, and was the first successful lander since the two Vikings landed on the red planet in 1976. Although the Soviet Union successfully sent rovers to the Moon as part of the Lunokhod program in the 1970s, its attempts to use rovers in its Mars program failed.

In addition to scientific objectives, the Mars Pathfinder mission was also a "proof-of-concept" for various technologies, such as airbag-mediated touchdown and automated obstacle avoidance, both later exploited by the Mars Exploration Rover mission. The Mars Pathfinder was also remarkable for its extremely low cost relative to other unmanned space missions to Mars. Originally, the mission was conceived as the first of the Mars Environmental Survey (MESUR) program.

Read more at Wikipedia

This entry is from Wikipedia, the user-contributed encyclopedia. If you find the content in the 'About' section factually incorrect, defamatory or highly offensive you can edit this article at Wikipedia.

Continue your journey

Visited