Mars Pathfinder

1996

Mars Pathfinder was designed to be a demonstration of the technology necessary to deliver a lander and a free-ranging robotic rover to the surface of Mars. Pathfinder not only accomplished this goal but also returned an unprecedented amount of data and outlived its primary design life. It consisted of a lander, renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station, and a lightweight wheeled robotic rover named Sojourner. Launched in December 1996 aboard a Delta II booster it landed on July 4, 1997 on Mars. The mission carried a series of scientific instruments to analyze the Martian atmosphere, climate, geology and the composition of its rocks and soil.

Mars Pathfinder Twin Peaks Image (NASA Public Domain)Mars Pathfinder Artists Rendition (NASA Public Domain)Mars Pathfinder Launch (NASA Public Domain)Mars Pathfinder after landing (NASA Public Domain)Mars Pathfinder during Contruction (NASA Public Domain)Mars Pathfinder Images returned upon landing on the surface of Mars (NASA Public Domain)

Mars Exploration Rovers

2003

NASA's twin robot geologists, the Mars Exploration Rovers, were robotic space probes named Spirit and Opportunity. The two rovers were launched in 2003, MER-A Spirit and MER-B Opportunity. After the airbag-protected landing craft settled onto the surface and opened, the rovers rolled out to take panoramic images. The images returned gave scientists the information they needed to select further locations for soil testing. On May 1, 2009, during its fifth mission extension, Spirit became stuck in soft soil on Mars. After nearly nine months of attempts to get the rover back on track NASA announced on January 26, 2010 that Spirit was being re-tasked as a stationary science platform. Contact with Spirit was lost on March 22, 2010.

Mars Exploration Opportunity Cruise Stage (NASA Public Domain)Mars Exploration Opportunity (NASA Public Domain)Mars Exploration Sharp surface of Mars (NASA Public Domain)Mars Exploration Spirit Launch (NASA Public Domain)Mars Exploration Rover on Mars Artists Rendition (NASA Public Domain)Mars Exploration Rover Testing on Earth (NASA Public Domain)

Overview Probes

All of the Earth's continents are wider at the north than in the south - and nobody knows why.