Mars Exploration

NASA’s Mars Pathfinder mission was an exploration mission to the Red Planet which delivered the Sojourner Rover - the first rover to be used on another planet! The Sojourner Rover far outlasted its planned 7-day mission eventually spending 83 days exploring and studying the Martian landscape while laying the foundation for the Mars rovers of today!

Sojourner Rover Fast Summary Facts!

  • Type:  Rover
  • Destination:  The Red Planet
  • Status:  Complete
  • Launch Location:  Cape Canaveral, Florida
  • Launch Date:  December 4th 1996
  • Deployment Date:  July 5th 1997
  • Mission Duration:  7 Month Cruise, 85 Days Roving

Cool Fun Facts About NASA’s Pathfinder Mission!

  • Pathfinder (officially renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station) and the Sojourner rover were sent to study the Red Planet and pave the way for future exploration missions.
  • The Pathfinder spacecraft and rover only weighed 275 kilograms (606 lbs) when launched and lifted-off aboard a Delta II rocket.
  • The mission included the first ever rover on Mars; the 11 kilogram (25 lbs) Sojourner Rover.
  • Following its fiery entry and descent by parachute, the Pathfinder spacecraft deployed airbags before being dropped 30 metres and allowed to bounce and roll along the surface until coming to a stop! The first time this system had been used!
  • Pathfinder would deploy its rover in an ancient Martian flood plain called Ares Vallis near Mars’ northern tropic line where there were plenty of rocks to study!
  • Sojourner rolled off its base station and spent 83 days (far exceeding the planned 7-day mission) covering 100 metres (330 ft) exploring the rocky Martian terrain, conducting analysis and snapping those pictures which captivated so many back on Earth!
  • The Rover and Pathfinder base station utilized solar panels for power generation during the mission.
  • Many of the rocks that Sojourner studied were given funny cartoon character names such as “Yogi”, “Barnacle Bill” and “Scooby-Doo”!
  • Along with the rock analysis data and climate information, the Mars Pathfinder lander sent back to Earth more than 17,050 images (550 of the images were taken by the Sojourner rover).
  • In the popular book called ‘The Martian’, which was made into the movie of the same name starring Matt Damon, the astronaut stranded on Mars ends up finding and recovering the Pathfinder lander, and the Sojourner rover, which he uses to contact Earth with!
 
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