Mars Pathfinder Lander Prototype

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    Mars Pathfinder Lander Prototype

    This artifact is an engineering test model for the Mars Pathfinder lander. The model is 70-inches wide, 104-inches long, and 67-inches high. The shipping weight was 1400 lbs. When deployed, the pedals extend in an equilateral triangle some 12-feet on a side, and the object height is 65-inches. The central bus is constructed of hogged out aluminum. The model also contains flight spare hardware including titanium separation bolts and fuel tanks, vectran (airbag material), plastic mylar (thermal blanketing), and phenolic honeycomb (white box with US flag and JPL logo on it).

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    Mars Pathfinder Lander and Sojourner Rover at the Udvar-Hazy Center

    Mars Pathfinder was the first spacecraft to land on the red planet since the two Viking landers in 1976. It was launched on December 4, 1996, and reached Mars on July 4, 1997. The spacecraft entered the planet's thin atmosphere, was slowed by a parachute and then rockets, and landed by bouncing on inflated airbags. Its protective aeroshell then unfolded to provide three flat platforms, one of which held the Sojourner rover. Sojourner traveled down a ramp, studied composition with an X-ray spectrometer.

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    Mars Spirit Rover Cleaned

    Dust devils periodically remove dust from the Mars rovers’ solar panels, enabling them to function longer than anticipated—as was the case with this cleaning event on Spirit, which took place between 2007 and 2008.

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    Mars Pathfinder Lander Prototype

    Mars Pathfinder Lander Prototype on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
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    Mars Spirit Rover

    The deck of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit is so dusty that the rover almost blends into the dusty background in this image assembled from frames taken by the panoramic camera (Pancam) in October 2007.

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Display Status:

This object is on display in the Space Science at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Space Science

Mars Pathfinder was the first spacecraft to land on the surface of the red planet since the Viking mission in 1976. The artifact 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 the three flat platforms, one of which held a rover (Sojourner).

Pathfinder had a TV camera and scientific instruments to gather scientific data on the martian atmosphere and weather, as well as solar cells to provide power and communications. The lander operated for over 90 days, during which it relayed 2.3 gigabits of data including that gathered by Sojourner. Some of this data suggest the presence of large amounts of water on Mars in the distant past. The spacecraft as well as the prototype were designed and built by JPL for NASA's office of Space Science.

This engineering model was transferred to NASM by NASA in 1999.