Published: July 2, 1997

A group of space scientists and students will gather at CU-Boulder’s Space Technology Building in the CU Research Park the evening of July 4 to see the first images of Mars beamed back to Earth by NASA’s Mars Pathfinder landing craft.

The first images are expected to arrive via a NASA television downlink between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. MDT, said Steve Lee, a research associate at CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The Mars surface images, which will be made with cameras aboard the landing craft, will be the first surface images taken since NASA’s Viking spacecraft landed on the planet in 1976.

Lee and colleague Todd Clancy, a senior researcher with the Boulder-based Space Science Institute and a CU-Boulder lecturer, will be on hand. The CU viewing is open to media and their families but not to the public. Reporters who plan to attend should call Jim Scott in public relations at 492-3114 or Lee at 492-5348 by 5 p.m., Thursday, July 3.

An imaging team that includes Lee and Clancy has made several Mars observations with the Hubble Space Telescope in the past six years, including three June 27 images that indicated a large dust storm was swirling about 600 miles south of the landing site. The storm, which apparently formed in the past several weeks, should have minimal impact on the Pathfinder landing, the researchers said.

If all goes well, the first panoramic image of the landing site will be returned between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. MDT. The rover, dubbed Sojourner, should roll down the ramps and off the lander at about 10 p.m. MDT.

The first images of Sojourner on the Martian surface and a 360-degree Mars panorama will be received on Earth between 10:20 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. MDT, Lee said. The sun will set at the landing site at 11:30 p.m., ending Pathfinder’s activities for the day.