Sojourner was the Mars Pathfinder robotic Mars rover that landed on July 4, 1997 and explored Mars for around three months. It has front and rear cameras and several science experiments. Designed for a mission lasting 7 sols, with possible extension to 30 sols, it in fact was active for 83 sols. The base station had its last communication session with Earth at 3:23 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time on September 27, 1997. The rover needed the base station to talk to Earth, despite still functioning at the time communications ended.
Sojourner traveled a distance of just over 100 metres (330 ft) by the time communication was lost. It was instructed to stay stationary until October 5, 1997 (sol 91) and then drive around the lander.
The rover's name, Sojourner, means "traveler", and was selected in an essay contest won by V. Ambroise, a 12-year-old from Connecticut, USA. It is named for abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth. The second place prize went to Marie Curie, a Noble-prize winning Polish chemist. Third place went to Judith Resnik, a United States' astronaut and shuttle crew-member. The rover was also known as Microrover Flight Experiment abbreviated MFEX.
Sojourner has solar panels and a non-rechargeable battery, which allowed limited nocturnal operations. Once the batteries were depleted, it could only operate during the day. The batteries are lithium-thionyl chloride (LiSOCL2) and could provide 150 watt-hours. The batteries also allowed the health of the rover to be checked while enclosed in the cruise stage while en route to Mars.
0.22 square meters of solar cells could produce a maximum of about 15 watts on Mars, depending on conditions. The cells were GaAs/Ge (Gallium Arsenide/Germanium) and capable of about 18 percent efficiency. They could survive down to about minus 140 degrees Celsius.
Its CPU is a 80C85 with a 2 MHz clock, addressing 64 Kbytes of memory. It has four memory stores; the previously mentioned 64 Kbytes of RAM (made by IBM) for the main processor, 16 Kbytes of radiation-hardened PROM (made by Harris), 176 Kbytes of non-volatile storage (made by SEEQ), and 512 Kbytes of temporary data storage (made by Micron). The electronics were housed inside the Warm Electronics Box inside the rover.
It communicated with the base station with 9600 baud radio modems. The practical rate was closer to 2600 baud with a theoretical range of about half a kilometer. The rover could travel out of range of the lander, but its software would need to be changed to that mode. Under normal driving it would periodically send a "heartbeat" message to the lander.
The UHF radio modems worked similar to Walkie-talkies but sent data not voice. It could send or receive but not both at same time, which is known as half-duplex. The data was communicated in bursts of 2000 eight-bit bytes.
The Alpha Proton X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) is nearly identical to the one on Mars 96, and was a collaboration between the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Lindau, Germany (formally known as the Max Planck Institute For Aeronomy) and the University of Chicago in the United States. APXS could determine elemental composition of Mars rocks and dust, except for hydrogen. It works by exposing a sample to alpha particles, then measuring the energies of emitted protons, X-rays, and backscattered alpha particles.
The rover had three cameras: 2 monochromes cameras in front, and a color camera in the rear. Each front camera had an array 484 pixels high by 768 wide. The optics consisted of a window, lens, and field flattener. The window was made of sapphire while the lens objective and flattner were made of zinc selenide. The rover was imaged on Mars by the base station's IMP camera system, which also helped determine where the rover should go.
Sojourner operation was supported by Rover Control Software, which ran on a Silicon Graphics Onyx2 computer back on Earth, and allowed command sequences to be generated using a graphical interface. The rover driver would wear 3D goggles supplied with imagery from the base station, and move a virtual model with the spaceball controller, a specialized joystick. The control software allowed the rover and surrounding terrain to be viewed from any angle or position, supporting the study of terrain features, placing waypoints, or doing virtual flyovers.
The rover's had a mass of 11.5 kg, which equates to 10 pounds on Mars or about 25 pounds on Earth.
In popular culture
- In the 2000 film Red Planet, the crew of the first manned mission to Mars survives the crash-landing of their entry vehicle, but their communications equipment is destroyed so they cannot contact their recovery vehicle in orbit. If contact is not reestablished within a set time window they will be presumed dead and the recovery vehicle (piloted by one crewmember who stayed aboard) will be ordered to return to Earth. Thinking quickly, the stranded landing team hikes to the nearby site of the Pathfinder rover, from which they salvage parts to make a basic radio.
- In the 2014 novel The Martian by Andy Weir, the protagonist, stranded on Mars, recovers the Pathfinder lander and Sojourner rover in order to allow him to contact Earth.
- Nelson, Jon. "Mars Pathfinder / Sojourner Rover". NASA. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
- NASA - Mars Pathfinder FAQ
- Mars Pathfinder - Welcome to Mars - Sol 86
- Mars Pathfinder Welcome to Mars - Sol 89
- NASA Names First Rover to Explore the Surface of Mars - NASA
- Microrover Ready to Roll!
- A Description of the Rover Sojourner
- Mars Microrover Power Subsystem
- The Radio Modem that is inside the Microrover. . . .
- NASA - Mars Pathfinder Instrument Descriptions
- Rover Camera Instrument Description
- B. Cooper - MFEX: Microrover Flight Experiment - NASA
- Weir, Andy (2014). The Martian. New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8041-3902-1.
- Media related to Mars Pathfinder (rover) at Wikimedia Commons
- Directory of Pathfinder Images
- Edible Spacecraft
Image map of Mars
The following imagemap of the planet Mars has embedded links to geographical features in addition to the noted Rover and Lander locations. Click on the features and you will be taken to the corresponding article pages. North is at the top. Colors represent elevations, from violet (lowest) through blue, green, yellow, orange, red, brown to white (highest).