My first project at JPL was Mars Pathfinder


I started working at JPL for Mars Pathfinder on March 2, 1998 but the spacecraft hadn't been heard from since Sept. 27, 1997. So was the mission actually over long before I arrived? The Flight Team made a final attempt to contact the Pathfinder Lander on March 10, 1998. Even though no signal was heard, I was there watching. It was a lot of fun watching the team members joking and sharing one last moment. But there was no answer so Pathfinder was declared to be probably dead. I was happy to have been there, in any case!


For the first time in history the world was able to see pictures returning from the surface of Mars via the Internet. My job was to help Kirk Goodall fix up the Pathfinder website by adding some artwork and organizing it better. And the Mars Pathfinder Web Engineer was Kirk Goodall.


Around that time the mission had just ended officially and scientists like Matt Golombek, the Pathfinder project scientist, were preparing to publish their findings. Pathfinder's landing site in Ares Valles was quite intriguing and Matt deserves the credit for choosing it. He wanted lots of rocks for the rover to investigate. But no one really expected such dramatic scenery. Soon after they saw the first pictures Matt was quoted as saying "We deliver!" as as the whole team was probably applauding. Well, I wasn't there so I don't know how it actually happened.



Matt's office was practically next to my cubicle, which was amazing since I had previously seen quite a bit of him on TV and now I was working there alongside him. Little did I know that it was only the beginning and that I had better get used to being around so many of the world's most accomplished planetary scientists and space mission engineers. It was a very abrupt change from the life I had been leading!


In the Mars Room, also known as the Sandbox




Working with Kirk Goodall and the Mars Pathfinder project at JPL


   Getting a closeup view of the Pathfinder engineering models




 The famous and the not-so-famous!


Pathfinder team members moving engineering model of lander out of the Sandbox.




 I created this series of images for the Pathfinder website science summary.

I also created all the little icons for the Mars Pathfinder CD-ROM Directory.

There once was a mission to Mars
That fell with a bounce from the stars
To study the mystery of life's early history
Preserved in the rocks & sand bars.

- Dr. Peter Smith, Pathfinder geologist

The incredible success of the Pathfinder team was now part of my success, too. Two months after starting work at JPL, I returned to my home town in Marin County, California to attend the 80th anniversary of Ross Grammar School. It was a multi-generation mass reunion - a lot of my old classmates were there, most of them last seen in 1968. It was quite triumphant when I could tell my old friends what I was now doing. (Just in the nick of time, too!)


Selected views from the Ares Valles site in stereo 3D



Continue to Mars Global Surveyor



Site Directory