Year
1997
Month Day
July 04

Pathfinder lands on Mars

After traveling 120 million miles in seven months, NASA’s Mars Pathfinder becomes the first U.S. spacecraft to land on Mars in more than two decades. In an ingenious, cost-saving landing procedure, Pathfinder used parachutes to slow its approach to the Martian surface and then deployed airbags to cushion its impact. Colliding with the Ares Vallis floodplain at 40 miles an hour, the spacecraft bounced high into the Martian atmosphere 16 times before safely coming to rest.

On July 5, the Pathfinder lander was renamed Sagan Memorial Station in honor of the late American astronomer Carl Sagan, and the next day Sojourner, the first remote-control interplanetary rover, rolled off the station. Soujourner, which traveled a total of 171 feet during its 30-day mission, sent back a wealth of information about the chemical components of rock and soil in the area. In addition, nearly 10,000 images of the Martian landscape were taken.

The Mars Pathfinder mission, which cost just $150 million, was hailed as a triumph for NASA.

READ MORE: Space Exploration: Timeline and Technologies 

Tags
terms:
NASAMars

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

France gives the Statue of Liberty to the United States

In a ceremony held in Paris on July 4, 1884, the completed Statue of Liberty is formally presented to the U.S. ambassador as a commemoration of the friendship between France and the United States. The idea for the statue was born in 1865, when the French historian and ...read more

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die

On July 4, 1826, former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who were once fellow Patriots and then adversaries, die on the same day within five hours of each other. READ MORE: Two Presidents Died on the Same July 4: Coincidence or Something More? Thomas Jefferson and John ...read more

First edition of Walt Whitman’s "Leaves of Grass" is published

Walt Whitman’s first edition of the self-published Leaves of Grass is printed, containing a dozen poems. Whitman was born in West Hills, Long Island, and raised in Brooklyn. He left school at the age of 14 to become a journeyman printer and later worked as a teacher, journalist, ...read more

Heat wave strikes Northeast, killing hundreds

On July 4, 1911, record temperatures are set in the northeastern United States as a deadly heat wave hits the area that would go on to kill 380 people. In Nashua, New Hampshire, the mercury peaked at 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Other high-temperature records were set all over New ...read more

A sensationalized murder trial inspires "The Fugitive"

Marilyn Sheppard is beaten to death inside her suburban home in Cleveland, Ohio. Her husband, Dr. Sam Sheppard, claimed to have fallen asleep in the family’s living room and awakened to find a man with bushy hair fleeing the scene. The ...read more

Confederates surrender at Vicksburg

The Confederacy is torn in two when General John C. Pemberton surrenders to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Vicksburg campaign was one of the Union’s most successful of the war. Although Grant’s first attempt to take the city failed in the winter of ...read more

Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain and its king. The declaration came 442 days after the first volleys of the American Revolution were ...read more