Mars Pathfinder (MPF), previously named "MESUR" or "Pathfinder",
is part of Nasa's
Discovery Program of low-cost small space exploration missions.
The spacecraft was successfully launched by a Delta II rocket from Cape
Canaveral on December 4, 1996, 1:58 a.m. EST. The lander carried a small
Mars rover, called Sojourner (previously Rocky IV, also MFEX rover).
On July 4, 1997, Mars Pathfinder successfully softlanded on Mars in a direct
approach in a region named Ares Valley, at 19.5 d N, 32.8 d W, and started
After landing, the MPF lander was renamed Carl Sagan Memorial Station.
Sojourner was released to the Martian surface on July 6, and started
investigating the Martian rocks and soil around the landing site.
Both spacecraft performed an excellent mission, returning lots of images and
data, from meteorology to Sojourner's X-ray spectrometer investigations,
until September 27, 1997, when the last data transmission took place. Contact
was eventually lost after a last signal received on October 7, 1997, perhaps
because of battery failure, partially due to falling temperatures at the
The project was formally concluded after a
final communications attempt failed on March 10. 1998.
Our image shows a view over the Ares Valley
rocky plain, as seen by the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft after its touchdown;
this was one of the first color images taken by the lander. Parts of the
spacecraft's airbag, which were used to softland, are visible in the
Mars Pathfinder, in landed
MPF model at JPL
used for a soft landing, hopping, and roll-over at the spacecraft's Mars
Artist's sketch of MPF's entry into Mars' atmopshere
Artist's sketch of MPF's descent to the Martian surface
Artist's view of the landed Mars Pathfinder spacecraft and Sojourner rover
Model of the MPF rover
(earlier study for the actual Sojourner)
MPF launch by Delta rocket;
MPF flight trajectory;
MPF in cruise configuration (artwork)
Sojourner on Martian surface;
Investigating a Big Rock;
At the end of Sol 30
More Mars Pathfinder links:
Roving Ares Valley..;
MPF Sagan Memorial Station on Sol 39;
Sojourner on Sol 39
Last Modification: May 21, 2013