Mars Pathfinder Post-Landing Schedule

Mars Pathfinder Lander on Surface of Mars

Itinerary for surface operations and availability of first images

Images from Mars Pathfinder now available. New images will be posted at and on the Mars Pathfinder mirror sites.

Nominal Itinerary

All times approximate and subject to change. EDT - Eastern Daylight Time, UT - Universal Time = Greenwich Mean Time.

Date (EDT) Time (EDT) Event Time (UT)
4 July 12:57 PM Landing 16:57
4 July 2:00 PM Air Bag Retraction Complete 18:00
4 July 2:21 - 3:22 PM Petal Opening Complete 18:21 - 19:22
4 July 4:44 PM Transmitter Turned On 20:44
4 July 4:50 PM Sunrise at Landing Site 20:50
4 July 4:55 PM Carrier Signal Received at Ground 20:55
4 July 5:09 PM First Info Received at Ground 21:09
4 July Nominal Plan
4 July 6:09 PM High Gain Antenna Deployment 22:09
4 July 7:13 - 8:00 First Downlink Session
B&W, Color Engineering Images
23:13 - 24:00
4 July 7:30 Color Engineering Image
Acquisition Starts
4 July 9:00 PM Rover Ramp Deployment 01:00 (5 July)
4 July 9:30 PM B&W Engineering Image Available 01:30
4 July 10:00 PM Color Engineering Image Available 02:00
4 July 9:55 - 10:57 PM Second Downlink Session
Ramp Deploy Image
01:55 - 02:57
4 July 11:58 PM Rover Deployed 03:58
5 July 12:24 - 1:26 AM Third Downlink Session
Rover on Mars Image, B&W 360 Pan
04:24 - 05:26
5 July 1:30 AM Sunset at Landing Site 05:30
5 July 1:30 - 2:00 AM Ramp Deploy Image Available? 05:30 - 06:00
5 July 3:00 - 4:00 AM Rover on Mars, B&W 360 Pan
Images Available?
07:00 - 08:00
5 July 5:20 - 5:50 PM Downlink Session, Color
Pan Image, Night Data
21:20 - 21:50

If for any reason the high gain antenna cannot be deployed on schedule and the nominal itinerary cannot be followed after the first information is received at the ground, starting at about 22:00 UT (6:00 PM EDT) a backup, low-gain communications schedule will be used:

Contingency Itinerary

Date (EDT) Time (EDT) Event Time (UT)
4 July 6:06 - 7:51 PM Low Gain Downlink Session
B&W Engineering Images
22:06 - 23:51
4 July 11:44 PM Deploy Rover Ramps 03:44 (5 July)
5 July 5:20 - 5:50 PM Low Gain Downlink Session
Try High Gain Antenna
21:20 - 21:50

Post-Landing Scenario

After landing at approximately 16:57 UT (12:57 PM EDT) on July 4 and after the lander encased in its airbags has finished bouncing and rolling, deflation of the airbags will commence. The transmitter will be turned off to save power. The airbags will be drawn toward the folded petals by internal lines and small winches as they deflate. Deflation and retraction of the bags will take about 64 minutes. The lander can come to rest on one of four sides: upright on its base or on one of the three petals. If it is on a petal, that petal will be opened first to force the lander upright. Then the other two petals will be opened. Approximately 2 hours is allotted to open the petals after the airbags have been withdrawn, although it should take less time than this. Digital downlink will automatically begin about 4 hours after landing, near the time of local sunrise. Until this time Pathfinder is completely under autonomous control.

At about 20:55 UT (4:55 PM EDT) the first carrier wave transmission should be received at the ground, and the first information at 21:09 (5:09 PM EDT). This session will last until 22:13 UT (6:13 PM EDT), during which time telemetry from all systems including the rover and preliminary atmospheric data from the descent will be transmitted. Checkouts and some preliminary images of the magnetic targets will be taken (but not sent back immediately) over the next few hours. If everything checks out during this session, the high-gain antenna deployment will begin, consisting of a camera search for the Sun and orientation of the antenna towards Earth. (If this cannot be done, a low gain contingency plan has been established, involving use of the low-gain antenna over the next two days to get the high-gain antenna properly oriented.)

A low resolution black and white engineering image of the rover, ramps, and part of the lander, airbags and terrain to determine the optimal direction to deploy the rover will be acquired, as will a higher resolution 3-color panoramic image of a lander petal and terrain. Both pictures will be transmitted during the first high-gain downlink at 23:00 - 24:00 UT (7 - 8 PM EDT); the b&w image should be available on-line about 1.5 hours after downlink and the color image about a half-hour after that. These images will be used to determine whether the rover ramps should be deployed. If it is judged safe, the rover ramp will be deployed at about 01:00 (5 July) UT, or 9 PM (4 July) EDT. An image will be taken of the deployed ramps and returned to Earth during the next downlink session from 02:00 to 03:00 UT (10 - 11 PM EDT). If the image shows a successful ramp deployment and an acceptable path for the rover, the rover will be deployed down one of the two ramps onto the surface of Mars at 04:00 UT (midnight EDT). Images of the rover will be acquired and downlinked on 5 July from 04:30 to 05:30 UT (12:30 - 1:30 AM EDT). A black and white 360 degree landing site panorama may also be returned. At 05:30 UT the sun sets at the landing site and the lander and rover will hibernate for the night. These images may be available on-line an hour or two after this. If the rover alpha-proton-X-ray spectrometer has been deployed it will run overnight. Communications will resume on 5 July at 21:20 (5:20 PM EDT).

There will be almost continuous coverage of Mars Pathfinder on NASA Select in the days leading up to the landing. Coverage after landing on July 4 will begin at 3:20 PM EDT. A complete schedule for NASA Select TV Coverage is available.
Mars Pathfinder Entry and Landing Strategy
Mars Pathfinder Landing Site - description and images
NASA SELECT TV Schedule - Coverage of Mars Pathfinder Events

Mars Pathfinder Page - including images of the landing site
Mars Home Page
NSSDCA Planetary Page

Dr. David R. Williams,
NSSDCA, Mail Code 690.1
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771

NASA Official: Ed Grayzeck,
Last Updated: 04 July 1997, DRW