This image shows the landing site for the Mars Pathfinder mission. Viewing of the large version of this image is recommended.
Click on image for full size
Image from: NASA/JPL
The Mars Pathfinder Landing Site
Mars Pathfinder landed in a valley of Mars called Ares Vallis, shown in this picture. Ares Vallis is an outflow plain of Xanthe Terra (check the large topographic map of Mars). The picture to the left is low-resolution and turned sideways. Viewing of the image in high resolution where features can be seen is recommended.
This spot was chosen for the landing site because scientists thought that like Earth, Mars had "flood plains", that is landforms created by the motion of rivers of water where the water carried different kinds of rocks from higher elevations to lower elevations and left them on the plain. Ares Vallis is just such a plain. Thus scientists expected to find many different sorts of rocks to experiment with. Higher elevations from which rock may have come can be seen in selected features around the landing site, some of which are 30 kilometers away, to the south, as viewed in the high resolution image. These outcroppings may be composed of andesite or basalt, both of which are igneous rock. The rocks may also have come from nearby impact craters, to the north, as viewed in the high resolution image.
Following the Rover experiments however, the origin of the rocks of the plain became less clear. Reasons that the geology of the landing site may be different than expected include the following:
- the nature of the flood plain, which the Rover observed up close
- the kind of erosion which the various rocks showed evidence of
- the soil which the Rover found
- chemical analysis of the rocks, which shows that they are identical
- the presence of nearby impact craters, particularly one called "Big Crater", better seen in the image at high resolution.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes fun classroom activities
for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!
You might also be interested in:
Basalt is a hard, black extrusive igneous rock. It is the most common type of rock in the Earth's crust and it makes up most of the ocean floor. The prevalence of dark minerals such as pyroxene and olivine...more
One of the measurement objectives of the Mars Pathfinder mission was the examination of the composition and structure of the soil. As the Rover traversed the surface exploring the rocks of Mars, it also...more
The rocks explored by the Mars Pathfinder's Rover have been classified into three kinds by scientists analysing the Rovers' findings. Potentially the rocks may all be the same kind of rock, all having...more
The Mars Pathfinder (MPF) mission was sent to investigate the geology of Mars. Its principal objective was to analyze the rocks and soil of Mars. The MPF consisted of 2 components, a lander and a mobile...more
The Mars Pathfinder was launched in December 1996 aboard a Delta II rocket. The spacecraft entered the Martian atmosphere on July 4th, 1997 with a Viking-derived heat shield and landed with the help of...more
These are the findings of Mars Pathfinder. High Silica Rocks - a result from chemical analysis of the Martian rocks. suggestive of differentiated (evolved) rocks and minerals. helps establish that, like...more
The Mars Odyssey was launched April 7, 2001, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. After a six-month, 285 million-mile journey, the Odyssey arrived at Mars on October 24, 2001 (02:30 Universal...more