The Imager for Mars Pathfinder (IMP) took this image of surrounding terrain in the mid-morning on Mars (2:30 PM Pacific Daylight Time) earlier today. Part of the small rover, Sojourner, is visible on the left side of the picture. The tan cylinder to the right of the rover is one of two rolled-up ramps by which the rover will descend to the ground. The white, billowy material in the center of the picture is part of the airbag system. Many rocks of different shapes and sizes are visible between the lander and the horizon. Two hills are visible on the horizon. The notch on the left side of the leftmost conical hill is an artifact of the processing of this picture.
Pathfinder, a low-cost Discovery mission, is the first of a new fleet of spacecraft that are planned to explore Mars over the next ten years. Mars Global Surveyor, already en route, arrives at Mars on September 11 to begin a two year orbital reconnaissance of the planet's composition, topography, and climate. Additional orbiters and landers will follow every 26 months.
Mars Pathfinder is the second in NASA's Discovery program of low-cost spacecraft with highly focused science goals. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, developed and manages the Mars Pathfinder mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL is an operating division of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The Imager for Mars Pathfinder (IMP) was developed by the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory under contract to JPL. Peter Smith is the Principal Investigator.
Photojournal note: Sojourner spent 83 days of a planned seven-day mission exploring the Martian terrain, acquiring images, and taking chemical, atmospheric and other measurements. The final data transmission received from Pathfinder was at 10:23 UTC on September 27, 1997. Although mission managers tried to restore full communications during the following five months, the successful mission was terminated on March 10, 1998.