The history of the Mars rover will point out their building was a team effort. Each of these rovers was created by a group of scientists working at NASA. Most of the work and development of the spacecraft take place in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The Mars Rovers
Five Mars rovers have been launched. The first one was launched in 1971 and called Mars 2 Prop M rover. It was followed by the Mars 3 Prop M rover. Both devices failed. The Sojourner rover (Mars Pathfinder) landed on the Red Planet on July 4, 1997. It was able to maintain communication with NASA until September 27, 1997.
The Spirit (MER-A) Mars Exploration Rover made it to Mars on January 4, 2004. As of June 2009, the craft was still functioning. The history of the Mars rover continued to evolve with the Opportunity. This craft made it to Mars on January 25, 2004. It was still operating as of July 2009.
The Mars Rovers Sojourner and Opportunity
The failure of Mars 2 and Mars 3 led to design overhauls. The sojourner left Earth on December 4, 1996. It was able to land successfully because it used a multi celled balloon. This device bounced on the ground and helped reduce the impact of landing. This allowed the craft to land without damaging any components.
The Opportunity landed on the Meridani Planum section, the first in the history of the Mars rover. Like the Sojourner and Spirit before it, the rover was able to land successfully without affecting any components.
There are now several Mars rovers being developed. These include the Curiosity, the ExoMars and the Tumbleweed. The Curiosity is scheduled to be launched in 2011, and the ExoMars in 2016. There are currently no plants to launch the Tumbleweed. Its design is meant to test the feasibility of a wind propelled rover.
The Rover Mission Objectives
The rovers have science and mission objectives. The latter consists of development of the technology. The former refer to the data analyzed by the instruments during the exploration. The Spirit and Opportunity are there primarily to look for traces of water on Mars, or at least historical evidence of it.
Part of the history of the Mars rover missions has always been the search for life. Other objectives include analyzing the climate and geology of the planet. All of these are in preparation for the future human exploration of Mars.
Sprit and Opportunity
The Spirit and Opportunity are twin rovers. The Spirit has been responsible for conducting numerous tests on the rocks and surface of Mars. It has lasted 15 times longer than expected. Programmed to last 90 Sols, it has exceeded 1,200 Sols.
This is actually longer than the Viking 2. The Spirit has relayed more than 200,000 images back to earth. Opportunity has also lasted over 1,000 sols. It has also gone beyond 16 kilometers,
The history of the Mars rover has not been without difficulty. But the information collected over the years has been tremendous. In no small way have they added greatly to our knowledge of the Red Planet.