Earth & Conservation

The Pathfinder That Saved Mark Watney

In Andy Weir's 'The Martian,' astronaut Mark Watney uses Pathfinder to talk to Earth. Here's the lander's real story.

Pathfinder landed on Mars in 1997 to prove that NASA had the technological know-how to being the true exploration of our neighboring planet. The lander, which carried the small Sojourner rover inside one of its petals, determined Mars was once warm and wet, and also surveyed the planet in anticipation of larger rovers. It also marked the beginning of our 18-year active exploration of Mars, which is still ongoing!

For more on Pathfinder, check out NASA's mission page.

Want more Vintage Space? Check out the blog on Popular Science. And for a little Vintage Space every day, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and Twitter as @astVintageSpace.

I'll be covering "Martian"-related topics and generating some fun social content all this month, so tweet me your questions and keep an eye out for some awesome stuff!