Mars Pathfinder – Københavns Universitet

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Mars Pathfinder

NASA's Mars Pathfinder mission consisted of a lander and a small rover called Sojourner.

The science goals of the mission were to investigate:

  • Surface morphology and geology at meter scale
  • Petrology and geochemistry of surface materials
  • Magnetic properties of airborne dust and soil mechanics of the surface
  • Atmospheric structure as well as diurnal and seasonal meteorological variations
  • Rotational and orbital dynamics of Mars

The Mars/Mössbauer group led the magnetic properties experiments on Mars Pathfinder.

Magnetic properties experiments

The magnetic properties experiments on the Mars Pathfinder Lander had three parts:

  • A pair of magnet arrays each consisting of five magnets of different strength, constructed to have different ability to attract and hold magnetic particles
  • A ‘tip-plate’ magnet consisting of a strong magnet mounted beneath a wedged surface to create a varying magnetic field strength and gradient over the exposed surface
  • Ramp magnets, mounted at the foot of each ramp. The ramp magnets were designed to attract and hold only the highly magnetic dust (and soil) particles in order to investigate any possible correlation between the elements iron and titanium in the magnetic phase(s) of the particles. The ramps were there to allow the small rover, Sojourner, to reach the ground safely.

All the Mars Pathfinder magnets were exposed to the Martian atmosphere, allowing airborne dust to accumulate on them for the entire mission (83 sols (Martian days), which is roughly 85 Earth days). The magnets were imaged at regular intervals by the Imager for Mars Pathfinder.