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Some of the excited engineers and staff on landing day.
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

Headlines declare: Mars Pathfinder Lands on July 4th

The Mars Pathfinder was launched in December 1996 on a Delta II rocket. The spacecraft entered the atmosphere on July 4th, 1997, where a heat shield, parachutes, and airbags helped it land.

After impact the lander put out three solar panels for power. Later on, a camera will map its surroundings, and the Sojourner rover will search the surface of Mars for rocks.

Long ago, water flowed on the plains of Mars. The rocky plain that Mars Pathfinder is landing on is thought to be a previous flood plain. Its name is Ares Vallis. The Sojourner rover will test rock and soil samples in this area.

Mars Pathfinder will finish its surface mission in August 1997.

The Mars Pathfinder is a NASA Discovery Mission. The Pathfinder program was developed in three years and costs under $280 million dollars. It is actually the first of NASA's Discovery Program low-cost series of planetary missions. The motto of the program has become "faster, better, and cheaper"!


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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA