Mars Pathfinder

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 in-situ research. 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 landing site. 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 foreground.


  • Mars Pathfinder, in landed configuration
  • MPF model at JPL [caption]
  • MPF's airbags, used for a soft landing, hopping, and roll-over at the spacecraft's Mars landing
  • Artist's sketch of MPF's entry into Mars' atmopshere [caption]
  • Artist's sketch of MPF's descent to the Martian surface [caption]
  • Artist's view of the landed Mars Pathfinder spacecraft and Sojourner rover [caption]
  • 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

    Roving Ares Valley..; MPF Sagan Memorial Station on Sol 39; Sojourner on Sol 39


    [MPF logo] More Mars Pathfinder links:
    Hartmut Frommert [contact]

    [Mars] | [Spider] @ [SEDS]

    Last Modification: May 21, 2013