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June 26, 1997

Michael Finneran
(757) 864-6121/24 (Langley)

Keith Henry
(757) 864-6120/24 (Langley)
(818) 354-5011 (JPL July 3-6)
(757) 647-2133 (cell phone)

Release No. 97-048

Independence Day Landing on Mars has Local Angle

When the Mars Pathfinder probe enters the Martian atmosphere in July, it will be with the help of engineers at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

Langley engineers provided critical information for Pathfinder's entry into the Martian atmosphere. The entry must be timed just right, because a miscalculation could send the spacecraft bouncing off the atmosphere and back into space, or descending too steeply and burning up.

Langley engineers also helped develop the design of Pathfinder's heat shield. And Langley engineers calculated where the Pathfinder probe will land on Mars based on its entry point into the planet's atmosphere.

A NASA Langley engineer will be in the control room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., on July 4 to oversee the entry phase of the mission. NASA Langley was chosen by JPL to provide these essential services thanks mainly to expertise gained in the Viking missions to Mars in the late 1970s.

Interviews are available with the NASA Langley engineers who devised Pathfinder's entry into the Martian atmosphere. Animation, illustrations and fact sheets are also available.

Two Pathfinder home pages are:

  • Langley: http://vab02.larc.nasa.gov/Activities/Path.html
  • JPL: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/mpfmir/
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