Mars Pathfinder lands on an ancient flood plain

<i>Mars Pathfinder</i> lands on an ancient flood plain

. Billions of years ago, when water flowed on Mars, great floods rushed out of the outflow channel, Ares Vallis, and emptied into the Chryse Planitia, or Plains of Gold, region of Mars (color inset). The flowing water carved out streamlined islands around craters (top right). This area was chosen as the Mars Pathfinder landing site for three reasons: it seemed safe, with no steep slopes or rough surfaces; it had a low elevation, which provided enough air density above the surface for a parachute to work, and it appeared to offer a variety of rock types deposited by the floods. The ellipses mark the area targeted for landing of Mars Pathfinder, as refined several times during the final approach to Mars. An X within the smallest ellipse marks the location of the lander at 19.33 degrees north and 33.55 degrees west. The site is about 850 kilometers southeast of the location of Viking 1 lander. (Courtesy of NASA and JPL.)

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University