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Mars Pathfinder

Ares Vallis, Mars lander, planet Mars, Mars Pathfinder, Sojourner

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Mars Pathfinder, United States spacecraft that landed on the planet Mars on July 4, 1997. Pathfinder was the first U.S. Mars lander since the Viking probes of the 1970s and the first in a series of small, inexpensive spacecraft scheduled to reach Mars every 26 months until 2005. The lander was a closed container with four triangular sides until it landed on Mars. On the planet's surface it opened up, exposing three solar panels, instruments, and a small, wheeled rover called Sojourner. Mars Pathfinder tested technologies for future robotic Mars exploration and explored its Martian surroundings. Pathfinder and Sojourner studied rocks and Martian weather at the landing site in an ancient flood channel called Ares Vallis to gather clues to Mars's geologic and climatic history.

Pathfinder’s instruments sent back vast amounts of data and the camera aboard the lander provided the first panoramic three-dimensional photos of a Martian landscape. The mission received a huge amount of attention from the public and press, especially during the first weeks after it landed. On July 7, 1997, the World Wide Web site that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) dedicated to Mars Pathfinder was visited more than 47 million times. Pathfinder sent signals from Mars until October 7, 1997, returning more than 2.6 gigabits of data, including 16,000 photos. Sojourner analyzed the chemical composition of 15 different Ares Vallis rocks.

Contributors

Portree, David S. F., B.A., M.S.

Freelance writer and space historian. Author of "Walking to Olympus: An EVA Chronology".



Article key phrases:

Ares Vallis, Mars lander, planet Mars, Mars Pathfinder, Sojourner, lander, solar panels, chemical composition, NASA, rocks, signals, camera, instruments, attention, October, weeks, times, months, technologies, mission, July, press

 
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