In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, on June 14, 1995, engineers test huge, multi-lobed air bags, which will envelope and protect the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft before it impacts the surface of Mars. The air bags, manufactured by ILC Dover of Frederica, Delaware, are composed of four large bags with six smaller, interconnected spheres within each bag. The bags measure 5 meters (17 feet) tall and about 5 meters (17 feet) in diameter.
As Pathfinder is descending to the Martian surface on a parachute, an onboard altimeter inside the lander will monitor its distance from the ground. The computer will inflate these large air bags about 100 meters (330 feet) above the surface of Mars. ILC Dover is the same company that manufactures spacesuits.
Each weekday, SPACE.com looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).