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JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
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Contact: Diane Ainsworth
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASESept. 26, 1997
MARS PATHFINDER ROVER EXITS ROCK GARDEN TO BEGIN LONG TREK
After 83 days of atmospheric, soil and rock studies, NASA's
Mars Pathfinder is moving into extended mission activities that
will take the rover on its longest trek yet, while the lander
camera completes its biggest and best landscape panorama.
"The lander and rover performance continues to be nothing
short of extraordinary," said Brian Muirhead, Mars Pathfinder
project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We have
proven that we know how to design robust robots to operate in the
hostile environment of Mars."
The rover has just completed its last alpha proton X-ray
spectrometer study for a while, taking compositional measurements
of a rock nicknamed Chimp, located just behind and to the left of
an area scientists call the Rock Garden. Once data from the
spectrometer have been retrieved, Sojourner will begin a 50-meter
(164-foot) clockwise stroll around the lander to perform a series
of technology experiments and hazard avoidance exercises.
Meanwhile, the Pathfinder lander camera is continuing to
image the Martian landscape in full resolution color as part of
its goal to provide a "super panorama" image of the Ares Vallis
landing site. Each frame of this panorama is imaged using 12
color filters plus stereo.
"The super pan will be our biggest and best imaging data
product," Muirhead said. "It is made up of 1 gigabit (1 billion
bits) of data, of which we've received more than 80 percent.
Given our limited downlink opportunities, we should have the full
image by the end of October."
The 10.5-kilogram (22-pound) rover has survived 10 times
longer than its primary mission design of seven days, while the
lander has now been operating 2-1/2 times longer than it was
originally expected to operate, according to Richard Cook, Mars
Pathfinder mission manager.
Both vehicles are solar-powered, but carried batteries to
conduct night-time science experiments and keep the lander warm
during the sub-freezing nights on Mars. Normal usage has fully
depleted the rover's non-rechargeable batteries, limiting it to
daylight activities only. The lander battery, which packed more
than 40 amp-hours of energy on landing day, performed perfectly
during the 30-day primary mission, but is now down to less than
30 percent of its original capacity.
"We expected to begin seeing this type of degradation on
both vehicles and, of course, designed both the lander and rover
to operate without batteries altogether," Cook said. "If
everything else continues to operate properly, we could continue
conducting surface experiments for months."
About once every two weeks, the lander battery is used to
perform some night-time science experiments, he added. The
primary activity is acquiring meteorological data and images of
morning clouds, as well as images of Mars' two small moons,
Phobos and Deimos.
Despite the lack of battery power, the rover has continued
taking successful spectrometer readings during the day. In the
next two weeks, engineers will drive the vehicle back to a
magnetic target on the ramp from which Sojourner first touched
"This analysis of the dust on the ramp magnet is a very
important science measurement," noted Dr. Matthew Golombek, Mars
Pathfinder project scientist. "The results should give us a clue
about how all this magnetic dust was formed."
Recent images and movies continue to be posted on the Mars
Pathfinder home page at:
The next media briefing on science results from Mars
Pathfinder is tentatively scheduled at JPL at 10 a.m. Pacific
time Wednesday, October 8.
The Mars Pathfinder mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC.
The mission is the second in the Discovery Program of fast track,
low-cost spacecraft with highly focused science goals. JPL is a
division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.