[Image of Mars Pathfinder in Mars atmosphere] [Image of Mars Pathfinder Lander on Surface of Mars]

Mars Pathfinder Project Information

Launch Date: 04 December 1996 UT 06:58
Arrival Date: 04 July 1997 UT 16:57
Launch Vehicle: Delta II
Mass: 264 kg (lander), 10.5 kg (rover)
Power System: Solar panels

A NASA press conference summarizing results from the Mars Pathfinder mission was held on June 29, 1998. More details are available in the press release

Images from Mars Pathfinder

Mars Pathfinder impacted the surface on July 4 at 16:57 UT (12:57 PM EDT) at a velocity of about 18 m/s (40 mph) - approximately 12.5 m/s vertical and 12.5 m/s horizontal - and bounced about 15 meters (50 feet) into the air, bouncing another 15 times and rolling before coming to rest approximately 2.5 minutes after impact and about 1 km from the initial impact site. The landing site in the Ares Vallis region is at 19.33 N, 33.55 W, the lander has been named the Carl Sagan Memorial Station.

The Mars Pathfinder's Sojourner Rover rolled onto Mars' surface on July 6 at about 05:40 UT (1:40 AM EDT). Image received at 2:00 AM EDT July 6 shows the rover completely off the ramp, all six wheels on the martian soil. A 9-frame movie of the Sojourner's descent down the ramp is also available (~500 K).

Mars Pathfinder status report

Preliminary Science Results

The Mars Pathfinder (formerly known as the Mars Environmental Survey, or MESUR, Pathfinder) is the second of NASA's low-cost planetary Discovery missions. The mission consists of a stationary lander and a surface rover. The mission has the primary objective of demonstrating the feasibility of low-cost landings on and exploration of the Martian surface. This objective will be met by tests of communications between the rover and lander, and the lander and Earth, and tests of the imaging devices and sensors.

The scientific objectives include atmospheric entry science, long-range and close-up surface imaging, with the general objective being to characterize the Martian environment for further exploration. The spacecraft entered the Martian atmosphere without going into orbit around the planet and landed on Mars with the aid of parachutes, rockets and airbags, taking atmospheric measurements on the way down. Prior to landing, the spacecraft was enclosed by three triangular solar panels (petals), which unfolded onto the ground after touchdown. (See image above.) The lander and rover operated until communication was lost for unknown reasons on 27 September.

[Image of Mars rover]
The rover "Sojourner" is a six-wheeled vehicle which is controlled by an Earth-based operator, who uses images obtained by both the rover and lander systems. Note that the time delay is about 10 minutes, requiring some autonomous control by the rover. The primary objectives were scheduled for the first seven sols (1 sol = 1 martian day = ~24.7 hours), all within about 10 meters of the lander. The extended mission included more analyses of nearby rock and soil and more tests of the rover capabilities.

 Detailed information on the Lander and experiments - from the NSSDCA Master Catalog
 Detailed information on the Rover and experiments - from the NSSDCA Master Catalog

 Images returned by Mars Pathfinder
 Information on the entry and landing strategy
 Information on the landing site
 Mars Mileage Guide - distance between Pathfinder and Viking landing sites and other martian features

The landing site for the Mars Pathfinder is at 19.33 N, 33.55 W in the Ares Vallis area. The site area is shown below. The first image shows the nominal landing area as an oval superimposed on a Viking Orbiter image. The target landing point is at the center of the oval. The second image shows the location of the landing site (arrow) on the Mars global digital image model.
Mars Pathfinder landing site Mars DIM with Pathfinder landing site
Clicking on these thumbnails gives higher resolution images.

See a comparison of the Mars Pathfinder and Viking landing site b&w panoramas.

Shaded relief map of the landing site.

Mars global view showing the Pathfinder and Viking landing sites


 Mars Pathfinder Images
 More Color Mars Pathfinder Images
 More Black and White Mars Pathfinder Images
 Historical Mars Pathfinder Images
 Comparison of Mars Pathfinder and Viking B&W Panoramas
 Global view of Mars showing the Mars Pathfinder and Viking landing sites

 Information on and Viking images of the landing site
 Information on post-landing itinerary - for the two days after landing
 Information on the entry and landing strategy
 APXS analysis of the rocks and soils

 APXS Mars surface composition results - Press Release 04 December 1997
 Mars Pathfinder mission winding down - Press Release 04 November 1997
 Review of Mars Pathfinder activities and status - Press Release 8 August 1997
 Hubble images show cloudy cold weather awaiting Mars Pathfinder - Press Release 20 May 1997
 Hubble detects large dust storm in Vallis Marineris - Press Release 01 July 1997

 Mars Fact Sheet
 Mars Home Page
 Scientific Results of the Mars Pathfinder Mission
 Viking Orbiters and Landers to Mars
 Mars Global Surveyor Information
 NASA's Discovery Program
 Mars Pathfinder Project Home Page

 NSSDCA Planetary Sciences Home Page

Dr. David R. Williams, dave.williams@nasa.gov
NSSDCA, Mail Code 690.1
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771

NASA Official: Dave Williams, david.r.williams@nasa.gov
Last Updated: 27 June 2022, DRW