Completed the years, NASA has sent five robotic vehicles, called rovers, to Mars rover. The names of the five rovers are Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance.
The first Mars rover was Sojourner, named for abolitionist and early women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth.
It arrived on Mars on July 4, 1997, with NASA’s Pathfinder mission, the first probe to touch down on the Martian surface since the Viking landers of 1976.
The Pathfinder landed in an area called Ares Vallis, a large, ancient flood plain that was chosen so that Sojourner would be able to rove around.
And analyze rocks quickly. Compared to later explorers, Sojourner was tiny.
NASA described it as a “micro rover” and gave its dimensions as 26 inches (66 centimeters) long, 19 inches (48 cm) wide. And also 12 inches (30 cm) tall — roughly the size of a filing cabinet drawer.
However, it roved on six 5-inch (13 cm) wheels that could each move independently so that if one got stuck in Mars’ soft sands, the others could work to power the robot forward.
The Sojourner’s top speed, according to NASA, was 0.015 miles per hour (0.024 kilometers per hour). Here the rover contained front and rear cameras as well as hardware to conduct scientific experiments.
However, a solar panel on its top provided power. And also, Sojourner analyzed rocks near its landing site, which were given nicknames such as Barnacle Bill, Scooby-Doo, and Yogi.
Here the investigations suggested that Ares Vallis had been extremely water-rich in the past and had formed from floods that originated near the landing site.
The Sojourner was designed to operate for just one week but ended up living for three months, traveling nearly 330 feet (100 meters) from Pathfinder and sending back more than 550 images.
The NASA last heard from Pathfinder on Sol 83 of the mission, which in Earth time was Sept. 27, 1997.
Here the agency believes that the probe stopped working because its battery got overloaded from repeating charging and de-charging.
Spirit and Opportunity
Here the following Mars rovers were the golf-cart-size twins, Spirit and Opportunity.
They have landed a few weeks apart in January 2004 and soon searched for signs of past water activity on the Red Planet.
Here the solar-powered rovers towered over their predecessor Sojourner, standing 4.9 feet (1.m) high and weighing 400 lbs. (180 kilograms).
The Spirit touched down at a location called Gusev Crater, suspected of being a lake at some point in the past.
Here the rover found ample evidence of rocks that had formed through interaction with water.
However, in 2005, Spirit scaled a mountain the height of the Statue of Liberty, and for the first time, recorded Martian dust devils as they formed, which NASA later made into movie clips.
However, in April 2009, Spirit got stuck in a patch of Martian sand. Engineers worked to free the rover, but it became clear that the machine wasn’t going to budge over the next few months.
Short of the ability to move, Spirit couldn’t tilt its solar panels toward the sun and slowly began to lose power.
Here NASA gave up contact with Spirit in 2011 after the rover’s electronics had likely become permanently damaged by Mars’ harsh winter.
Here the rover was intending for a 90-day mission but lasting for six years and drove 4.8 miles across the Martian surface.
However, the vehicle investigated the surrounding plains, coming across meteorites and rumbling over dunes.
It directed back spectacular photos of tiny, iron-rich pebbles nicknamed “blueberries” that seem to suggest a watery past on Mars.
Composed with its sibling, Spirit, Opportunity transformed our understanding of Mars, a place we once thought of as a dead.
However, a global Martian dust storm that began May 30, 2018, and raged for four months likely covered the rover’s solar panels in obscuring dust, causing NASA to lose contact with Opportunity.
Here on Feb. 12, 2019, officials are still trying to make contact with the deceased robot. Chance drove more than 28 miles (45 km) in more than 14 years, farther than any vehicle in another world.
The most incredible recent rover to touch down on Mars is Curiosity, which landed on Aug. 6, 2012.
Here the 1-ton SUV-size machine is the largest vehicle to reach the Martian surface, requiring an elaborate sky-crane mechanism.
However, to lower it down to the ground following an infamous “seven minutes of terror,” during which NASA engineers couldn’t contact the robot.
The Curiosity is the first rover that’s not solar-powering; instead, it relies on a nuclear radioisotope thermoelectric generator.
Which crops electricity from the heat of plutonium-238’s radioactive decay. The container travels about 660 feet (200 m) per day.
However, Curiosity’s main scientific goals are to determine if Mars was ever capable of hosting living organisms.
After its landing site in Gale Crater, it has investigated the surface using an entire laboratory’s worth of instruments, including multiple cameras.
Spectrometers can determine the chemical composition of rocks, weather and atmospheric sensors, and even a laser that can vaporize and then analyze chunks of Mars.
However, in 2018, Curiosity exposed organic materials, the building blocks of life, in 3.5-billion-year-old Martian rocks. Here the rover is also a media darling, with a liking for snapping selfies.
The NASA’s newest rover has been roving for more than six years, and nobody knows how long Curiosity will last. Its nuclear battery might keep going for six to nine more years, or perhaps longer.
The NASA’s newest Mars rover, Perseverance, was naming and launching during the COVID-19 pandemic on July 30, 2020, from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Here the rover, which arrived successfully at the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021, will hunt for signs of habitable environments on Mars while searching for signs of past microbial life.
However, the robotic traveler will also cache a series of samples that can be returning to Earth by a future campaign.
Persistence has an initial mission duration of at least one Martian year or 687 Earth days. If it appearances familiar, that’s because the robotic explorer is essentially a twin of Curiosity.
Unevenly 85% of the new rover’s mass is “heritage hardware,” saving time, expense, and risk in the rover’s design.
Here the new stuff is typically a suite of cutting-edge instruments adding to the 10 feet long rover. On 2,314 lbs. (1,050 kilograms), Perseverance weighs less than a compact car.
Then it packs a lot into that frame. With an X-ray spectrometer and an ultraviolet laser, Perseverance will seek out biosignatures from the past on a microbial scale.
However, a ground-penetrating radar will be the first rover instrument to look under the surface of Mars. Mapping layers of rock, water, and ice up to 33 feet (10 m) deep.
The China’s first mission to reach Mars, Tianwen-1, is currently in orbit around the planet.
However, the lander and rover will attempt to descend to the surface sometime in May or June of 2021. Joining the fleet of NASA rovers already scattered across Mars.
Here the rover will complement the Tianwen-1 orbiter’s distant investigation of surface soil characteristics. And water-ice distribution with its Subsurface Exploration Radar.
It also resolves to analyze surface material composition and characteristics of the Martian climate and environment on the surface.