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Landscape shows boulders, rocks all the way to Mars horizon

July 5, 1997

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ Although they depict little more than a desolate landscape, the color photos Pathfinder took of the reddish sand and sharply angled boulders of Mars were works of art to scientists.

``This is a fantastic landscape. ... This is what we’re here for,″ said Peter Smith, the University of Arizona scientist who developed the camera aboard the spacecraft that landed on Earth’s nearest neighbor Friday.

The mosaic made up of 120 separate images shows the Sojourner rover, its metal wheels shining, in the foreground, poised to explore the landscape. Behind it, airbags that cushioned Pathfinder’s landing puff out from under the edges of the spacecraft.

Beyond is a strangely still red-hued desert with two rounded hills in the distance.

``It’s pretty awesome. It’s wonderful to see how big God is,″ said Linda Martz of Norco, who brought her three young children to a public showing of the video on a 25-foot TV screen at a nearby convention center.

Black-and-white pictures began to pour into NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Friday afternoon about 4:40 p.m. Scientists proudly projected the color shots about two hours later.

The first shots were taken to assess the condition of Pathfinder and the rover. The photos also included sky shots to test the camera’s ability to move freely.

Scientists planned to use later photos to plot the rover’s slow exploration of the area around the landing site.

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