Mars Pathfinder

Fifteen years ago today — December 4, 1996 — a Delta-II rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Station carrying the Mars Pathfinder lander and rover.

(Martian sunset (false color view). NASA image.)

Mars Pathfinder landed on Mars on July 4, 1997, and deployed the Sojourner rover (named for Sojourner Truth). After it landed, the Pathfinder’s name was changed to the Carl Sagan Memorial Station.

The mission was a great success, with the rover lasting twelve times longer than its design life and the lander lasting three times as long. The last Mars Pathfinder data transmission was sent on September 27, 1997.

Lessons learned from the Mars Pathfinder mission went into building the follow-on Spirit and Odyssey rovers, as well as the much larger and more ambitious Curiosity rover which launched November 26, 2011, on the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

May Curiosity meet with even greater success than its predecessors.

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