U.S. Spacecraft Mars Pathfinder Lands on Mars (Great Events: 1900-2001)
Article abstract: A spacecraft that had been launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 4, 1996, landed safely on Mars after a flight lasting seven months.
Launch and Voyage to Mars
On December 4, 1996, a Delta II rocket blasted into space from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying the Mars Pathfinder into Earth orbit on the first leg of its journey to the red planet. Pathfinder carried no crew but was designed to deliver a lander called Sojourner safely to the surface of Mars. The name Sojourner commemorates Sojourner Truth, a civil rights pioneer, and was chosen as a result of a competition among school students.
The seven-month journey through space covered 310 million miles (500 million kilometers) on a curved path between the orbits of the two planets. While in flight, Pathfinder was in constant radio contact with the control center on earth, located at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The JPL scientists most concerned with the Pathfinder mission were Matthew Golombek, Pathfinder project scientist; Robert Manning, flight system chief engineer; Brian Muirhead, project manager; and Donna Shirley, Mars exploration project manager. Four trajectory-correction maneuvers helped keep the mission on course and to ensure the most favorable angle of descent into the thin Martian atmosphere.
Landing on Mars
Pathfinder entered the...
(The entire section is 1044 words.)
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