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Mars Pathfinder Lands on Mars
Mars Pathfinder Lands on Mars
4 Jul 1997
(Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

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Mars Pathfinder Mission Status
July 4, 1997
4 p.m. Pacific Time

Mars Pathfinder successfully landed on the surface of Mars at 10:07:25 a.m. Pacific time, marking NASA's historic return to the red planet after more than 20 years.

The Pathfinder flight team received nearly instantaneous confirmation that the spacecraft had landed from an independent antenna mounted on one of the spacecraft's petals. Detection of the very weak signal, which came as a surprise, also indicated that the craft had landed on its base petal, thus eliminating the spacecraft's next task: to stand itself upright before deploying its petals.

Approximately 90 minutes after landing, engineering data indicated that Pathfinder had fully deployed its petals and was awaiting sunrise on Mars to power up. The flight team reported that the lander came to rest about 12 miles southwest of its targeted landing spot and was resting on the surface at a very slight tilt of about 2.5 degrees.

Pathfinder's first low-gain antenna transmission was received right on time at 2:07 p.m. PDT. The transmission contained preliminary information about the health of the spacecraft and rover, the spacecraft's orientation on the surface, data about its entry, descent and landing, and a first look at the density and temperatures of the Martian atmosphere.

Preliminary data from the atmospheric science instrument indicated that temperatures are somewhat warmer than they were in the Viking days of the mid-1970s. Dr. Timothy Schofield, principal investigator of the atmospheric science team, said early data suggested it was about minus 220 degrees Kelvin (minus 64 degrees Fahrenheit) at the landing site.

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