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Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasedena, CA

Mars Pathfinder Lands on July 4th
News story originally written on June 30, 1997

The Mars Pathfinder was launched in December 1996 aboard a Delta II rocket. The spacecraft is en route right now to Mars. It will enter the Martian atmosphere with a Viking-derived heat shield and land with the help of parachutes, rocket thrusters, and airbags. Landing on the surface of Mars is scheduled for July 4th, 1997.

After impact the lander will deploy its three solar panels for power, the camera will map its surroundings, and the Sojourner rover will be positioned for deployment to the surface.

Eons ago it is thought that 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 use alpha proton x-ray spectrometry on rocks to take elemental composition measurements. The Ares Vallis landing area was chosen for the variety of rock and soil samples it may present.

Mars Pathfinder will finish its surface mission in August 1997.

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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