Mars explorer rovers are robot geologists sent to Mars to examine the planet. Designed to move around
and investigate different locations on Mars, like geologists and capable of collecting samples and data,
these Mars explorer rovers have been working hard to provide scientists with vital information about
the planet. The Mars explorer rovers help scientists collect data about Mars to ensure that future
manned missions to the planet would be safe and successful.
The first Mars explorer rover was the Sojourner, which arrived on Mars in July 1997. Described by NASA
as a micro rover, it arrived with the Pathfinder mission and landed on an ancient flood plain called Ares
Vallis. It’s equipped with front and rear cameras and other tools to conduct scientific experiments.
Sojourner lived for three months, traveled more than 300 feet, and sent back more than 550 images. It
also analyzed rocks and helped determine that its landing site was once flooded with water.
Next to land on Mars were twin robot rovers Spirit and Opportunity. They arrived on Mars in January
2004. Their mission was to analyze the physical and chemical composition of different locations across
the Martian surface and determine whether water was ever-present on the planet. They were also assigned
to look for evidence of life on the planet. After surpassing their original 90-day mission, Spirit and
Opportunity continued to work for several years.
In 2009, Spirit was stuck in soft sandy soil and became a stationary lander until it finally died in 2011.
Opportunity worked for a record 14 years until a dust storm in 2018 caused its death.
Curiosity is a still-active rover launched last November 2011. About the size of a small SUV, one of its
goals is to prepare for human exploration on Mars. The rover is powered by a thermoelectric power
generator that allows it to operate even during winter on Mars. Curiosity had traveled 21.8 km (13.5
miles) in Gale crater where it landed.
With the help of all these Mars explorer rovers, hopefully, the first manned mission to Mars will be a
a huge milestone for mankind!
To learn more about Mars, check out Smore Magazine for ages 8+.