Pathfinder sending home snapshots


PASADENA, Calif., July 4 -- Pathfinder is sending a series of snapshots from the surface of Mars, the first images of the Red Planet in 21 years. The postage stamp-sized pictures will be combined into a mosiac so engineers can determine if Pathfinder's protective cluster of airbags is fully retracted.

Engineers expect a panoramic view of the Martian surface between 9 and 10 p.m. EDT. The 1,256-pound spacecraft fared well during its 24 mph landing on the Martian surface at 1:07 p.m., bouncing at least three times in its protective cocoon of airballs before coming to a stop base side down and relatively flat on the planet's surface. Says flight director Rob Manning, 'We're absolutely boggled' that the landing has gone so well. Adds scientist Tim Schofield, 'It's been nothing like a simulation. Sims went wrong all the time.' Once Pathfinder's position is determined, engineers will plan to lower ramps and drive off a robotic rover to survey the landing site. ---


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