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Pathfinder experiments 'back on track'

Sojourner July 22, 1997
Web posted at: 3:45 p.m. EDT (1945 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- NASA scientists on Tuesday expressed satisfaction with the latest Pathfinder experiments, following a series of technical problems with the Mars probe. They said all systems were working well and that new imaging and weather data came through clear.

Engineers said they were able to fix the latest communication problems with Pathfinder after realizing that the breakdown in radio contact was caused by a software glitch.

NASA/JPL Briefing for July 22, 1997 - Part 1
icon 16 min. 47 sec. VXtreme video

NASA/JPL Briefing for July 22, 1997 - Part 2
icon 30 min. 20 sec. VXtreme video

New software was radioed up to avert the kind of computer resets that plagued the mission on three previous occasions.

During Tuesday's news conference, scientists showed pictures of the rover carrying out so-called soil mechanics. The idea is to use Sojourner's wheels to churn up the red dust on the Mars surface as part of soil experiments and tests.

Scientists were particularly keen to find out whether the dust would impede Sojourner's ability to draw energy from the sun as the dust repeatedly settles on its solar cells.

Scientists said Sojourner's images of a rock called Yogi revealed that it has two colors: one part red and the other half more of a bluish hue. Scientists said they didn't yet know the reason for the bi-coloration.


Further data sent back by the probe focused on wind measurements and the density of dust in the Mars atmosphere.

Other data sent back from Mars show that the dust is highly magnetic, leading scientists to assume that Mars dust is likely to be markedly different from Earth matter.

Sojourner will next carry on with its soil mechanics in an area named "Rock Garden," then gather further data in the nearby "Cabbage Patch" and "Soufflé" areas.

Destination Mars CNN Plus

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