January 1998 Volume 7 Number 1

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Mars Pathfinder--- Whatta Mission!

Sojourner visits Moe Rock on September 7, 1997.

article by Ken Edgett, Arizona State University

Barnacle Bill, Yogi, Scooby Doo... who can forget these lovable "rock stars" of 1997? Mars Pathfinder and it's little rover, Sojourner (above) landed in Ares Vallis on July 4, 1997. They accomplished feats never before seen on Mars, including the first air-bag landing and the first rover.

Sojourner drove out onto the martian landscape on July 5th. It was designed to last a minimum of 7 days. The lander, Mars Pathfinder, was only expected to survive 30 days in the cold, dry environment. Incredibly, they lasted 83 days. Well, actually, the lander seems to have lasted at least 83 days, and the rover might still have been operational beyond that.

The last scientific data radioed to Earth came on September 27, 1997. The Mars Pathfinder team continued to attempt to communicate with the lander until the end of October, but to no avail. Apparently, the lander's battery had quit, making it difficult for the lander to stay warm at night. Nights in Ares Vallis were cold-- typical low temperatures were around 100 degrees F below zero! Daytime temperatures were rarely above +20 degrees F... and it was summer in Ares Vallis when Mars Pathfinder landed!

Although the spacecraft is no longer communicating with Earth, analysis of the data is continuing. The best discoveries are yet to come. Congratulations to all who were a part of this wonderful project-- the first landing on Mars since 1976!

TES News is published quarterly by the Arizona Mars K-12 Education Program. This newsletter may be copied for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

EDITED BY Kenneth S. Edgett, Arizona Mars K-12 Education Program, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA.
E-mail: ken.edgett@asu.edu