Mars Pathfinder was the first spacecraft to land on the surface of the red planet since the Viking mission in 1976. The lander is a full-scale engineering prototype for a spacecraft that was launched on December 4, 1996. On reaching Mars on July 4, 1997, the spacecraft entered the planet's thin atmosphere, was slowed by a parachute and then rockets, and then landed by bouncing on inflated airbags. The protective aeroshell then unfolded to provide three flat platforms and ramps, one of which held a rover (Sojourner). After landing on Mars the Sojourner rover traveled down one of the ramps where it proceeded to take close up images of the surface using two color cameras on the front and a black and white camera on the rear. The rover also featured a rear-mounted Alpha Proto X-ray Spectrometer that provided bulk elemental composition data on surface soils and rocks.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manufactured and transferred this artifact to the Museum in 2002.
Transferred from NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory