This month noticed a really particular Martian anniversary, as NASA celebrated 25 years because the Pathfinder mission touched down on Mars. This mission included the primary ever rover which explored Mars, known as Sojourner, and opened the door to fashionable Mars exploration.
Launched in December 1996, the Pathfinder spacecraft landed a base station together with a rover on July 4 1997 within the Ares Vallis area of Mars. The mission collected a few of the earliest information on the Martian environment and local weather as seen from the floor and appeared on the composition of rocks and soil within the area as properly.
The rover, named after activist Sojourner Fact, was tiny in comparison with the car-sized rovers which discover Mars at this time. At simply 25 kilos it was, as NASA describes, “no bigger than a microwave oven.” But it surely demonstrated the feasibility of rovers as a solution to discover different planets.
The rover’s explorations additionally impressed a era of Mars scientists and engineers. “That second – seeing this little mechanical rover exploring the floor of one other planet – made me understand that’s one thing I might like to do,” stated Jessica Samuels, the mission supervisor for the present Mars rover Perseverance, who was an engineering intern when Pathfinder landed. “I had all the time been taken with house, however that was the spark the place I believed this might really be my occupation.”
The mission was additionally notable for making early use of the web, with NASA organising a web site devoted to the mission which turned well-liked with early internet customers. It additionally demonstrated the general public engagement worth of sharing information from house missions, which continues at this time with applications just like the public archives sharing all the uncooked pictures taken by cameras on the Perseverance rover and Curiosity rover.
“Placing a lot on-line so rapidly was a paradigm shift,” stated Doug Ellison, who works on the Curiosity rover mission. “That’s the motivation at this time to share as a lot as we are able to as rapidly as we are able to from our rover missions. I feel the Mars program owes Pathfinder a debt of gratitude for being the whole stepping stone for every part since.”