While NASA’s science rover Perseverance is the most advanced astrobiology laboratory ever sent to another world and it recently made its historic landing on Mars, the United States space agency has sent several rovers to the Martian Planet. What the National Astronomical Space Agency (NASA) has termed ‘the team’, is a set of five robotic vehicles that have been sent to Mars, a fascinating planet at least 212.09 million km away from Earth. Here’s a list of all five rovers:
Sojourner, Mars Pathfinder Mission
Sojourner is the first rover that landed on Mars. The vehicle reached the Red Planet in 1997 in a location called Ares Vallis where it contributed to the planet exploration with several photos that it captured. At least 24 years ago, scientists achieved a significant milestone in knowing more about outer space where the used a small wheeled robot to study the surface of the Martian Planet. This robotic explorer or rover was only about the size of a microwave oven and it travelled within a spacecraft called a lander.
Spirit and Opportunity: The Mars Rovers
Followed by Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, the twin rovers were sent to Mars and revealed more information bout the Red Planet. NASA researchers sent Spirit and Opportunity were sent in 2003 and together they were a part of the US space agency’s Mars Exploration Rover mission. Both rovers were made as twins with the same information and scientific capability. According to NASA, each of the twin rovers was about the size of a golf cart. Spirit and Opportunity were sent to find more clues about the history of water in the Martian Planet or if Mars could ever support life and hence, both rovers landed on opposite sides of the planet.
Image credits: mars.nasa.gov
After Spirit and Opportunity landed on Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum regions of Mars respectively to find clues about water, Curiosity was sent to determine if the Red Planet ever had the proper conditions for microbial life to survive. What is notable is that Curiosity, sent in August 2012 was the largest rover ever sent to another planet and was the size of a small SUV. Curiosity landed in Gale Crater, which is a ‘special’ region according to NASA because it has a tall mountain in the middle.
NASA explained, “Curiosity used its drill to make a hole in a rock that once was mud at the bottom of a lake. One of its other instruments studied the powder drilled from the rock. This information helped scientists learn that the Gale crater had ingredients that ancient life would have needed to survive.”
Look cute – and I won’t delete later.
Greetings from the Red Planet! I took another selfie as I explored a new spot dubbed “Mary Anning,” where I’m analyzing drill samples. I conducted experiments on them in my continued search for organic molecules. https://t.co/NKTjxVNjX7 pic.twitter.com/GynSQifLQC
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) November 12, 2020
The historic Perseverance rover that landed on Mars on February 18, 2021, is currently studying a region of Mars called Jezero Crater and the robotic explorer is set to provide answers to several questions about the Red Planet while also searching for signs of past microbial life. Since the previous rovers on Mars have collected evidence of water along with the chemical building blocks of life, Perseverance will provide more in-depth knowledge as scientists “think it might be possible that life existed on Mars a long time ago”.
Image credits: spaceplace.nasa.gov