Evan Shelkie/Staff Reporter
With rapid advancements in technology, humanity has been able to explore our solar system more than ever before. Mars has been a focus of our research as it’s our nearest neighbour and the most likely place to support life and future manned missions. For centuries humanity has been interested in the red planet and starting in the 1960s, a series of orbiters and landers have been sent towards Mars.
The first probe to successfully land on the surface of Mars was the American Viking 1 lander. The goal for this mission was to search for signs of life on the surface, test the atmosphere, sample and examine Martian soil and take high-resolution photos of the surface. Although it didn’t find any signs of life, Viking 1 found evidence for ancient riverbeds on mars. Viking 1 launched on August 20, 1975, it landed on June 19, 1976, it operated for 2307 days (over 6 years).
Viking 2 was the second in a two-part mission, after Viking 1. the orbiter and lander of Viking 2 were physically the same as Viking 1. Its mission was to expand on the discoveries of its predecessor. Viking 2 was launched on September 9, 1975, only 19 days after the launch of Viking 1. The lander returned 16,000 images from the surface and extensive data on the soil and atmosphere.
The Mars Pathfinder mission launched from earth on Dec 04, 1996, and touched down on the surface of Mars on July 4, 1997. The lander on this mission was named the Sojourner rover, it was the first rover-style lander to land on Mars. The mission demonstrated a new, cost-effective way of delivering payloads to the surface of the red planet. The pathfinder mission used a new and innovative airbag landing system. The Sojourner rover carried onboard various scientific equipment to conduct tests and a camera for photographing the surface. The rover spent 83 days exploring the surface, 74 days longer than its planned 7-day mission.
Spirit was the first of the two rovers sent to Mars by NASA in 2003. Spirit was launched on June tenth, 2003 and landed on the surface on January 24, 2004. The Spirit and the Opportunity rovers were mechanically identical, and both carried nine cameras, solar panels to charge the batteries and a variety of scientific equipment and experiments. The rover landed in a rough area and had a difficult time navigating the terrain which was made even worse when one of the wheels stopped working. Spirit lasted six years on the Martian surface, it travelled 7.7 kilometres and took 125,000 photos.
Opportunity was the second of the two rovers sent to Mars by NASA in 2003. Opportunity was launched on July seventh, 2003, 27 days after the launch of the Spirit mission. Unlike spirit, Opportunity landed in a very smooth and flat area, which made it easier for the rover to maneuver over the Martian terrain. Both spirit and opportunity conducted various science experiments and discovered mars once had liquid water on the surface. Opportunity holds the record for longest-lasting mars rover, lasting over 14 years on the surface, only shutting down after a planet-wide dust storm covered the solar panels and prevented the rover from charging its batteries.
The Curiosity rover was launched on November 26, 2011, and landed on Mars on August 5, 2012. Curiosity is a mobile scientific laboratory conducting experiments on the soil, rocks and air. The rover is as big as a small car as weighs 1,982 lbs. Curiosity has been operating on mars for eight years and is still moving around and conducting science experiments to this day.
Perseverance is the most recent rover to land on Mars, only having been on the surface for 27 days so far. The rover has a similar construction and landing system to the previous rover Curiosity. The perseverance rover is the first in a series of missions to return samples of Martian soil and rock back to earth. The rover has a drill to collect, package and leave behind samples for another rover to pick up and sent back to earth. Perseverance has a plethora of cameras on-board to navigate, record and photograph its surroundings and to conduct science experiments.
The perseverance rover is the most recent step to better understand our neighbour planet Mars and the rest of the solar system. the mission of these rovers is to find if Mars was ever habitable for life and ultimately a future manned mission to Mars.