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For Release: June 27, 1997

Shenetha Wilburn
(757) 864-7060

Release No. 97-046

Mars Pathfinder Project Manager To Speak July 15

The Mars Pathfinder landing on July 4, 1997 will usher in a new era of planetary exploration. On Tuesday, July 15, at 2 p.m. at the NASA Langley H.J.E. Reid Conference Center, the manager of the Mars Pathfinder project will discuss the development and flight of the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft.

A media briefing with Anthony Spear, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasedena, Calif. will take place at 1 p.m. in the Reid Center, 14 Langley Blvd.

According to Anthony Spear, spacecraft that orbit or land on a distant body typically carry a massive amount of propellant to decelerate. But Pathfinder spacecraft requires only a modest supply of fuel to navigate to Mars. With use of a Viking-derived aeroshell, the spacecraft descends through the Mars atmosphere directly from its interplanetary flightpath, deploys a parachute approximately 6.2 miles above the surface, and fires solid rockets within 109 yards of the surface for final braking prior to the deployment of airbags that cushion its touchdown. After landing, petals open to orient the lander upright, followed by deployment of a small rover, Sojourner, and several science instruments.

Spear has been the manager of the Mars Pathfinder project since its inception in 1992. In 1991, he led the initial Jet Propulsion Laboratory studies on NASA's Discovery missions. He has worked on numerous interplanetary spacecraft including the Mariner Mars 1964, Mars 1969, Venus Mercury 1973, Viking, and Magellan programs.

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