Humans have now been long searching the cosmic realms in their quest for extraterrestrial life and the prospects of human survival beyond Earth. From ground-breaking space missions like Kepler to Voyager 1 and Cassini-Huygens, we have found more than 4000 planets around. Out of these, about 30 are earth-sized planets that may be favorable for life.
However, many astrophysicists and biologists believe that we will not have to venture far into space. There is an Earth-like planet much closer to home: Mars.
For centuries, humans have found the red planet fascinating. It has received more missions than any other planet.
We have collected extensive data from several orbiters and rovers. Speaking of the latter, humans have sent five successful rovers to Mars: Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance. Here are some interesting facts about them all!
Interesting Facts About Sojourner
Part of NASA’s Mars Pathfinder Mission, Sojourner was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida in 1996. It reached the red planet in 1997, after a 7-month cruise. However, there’s much more to this first rover sent to Mars. Below are some interesting facts about it!
- Was the first rover to another planet; The Sojourner landing was one significant achievement in the history of space exploration.
- Sojourner Outlasted its Planned 7-Day Mission; The rover reached the Martian surface after a 7-month cruise in space. Scientists had planned to spend 7 seven days exploring. However, it outlasted its planned mission and spent 83 days collecting data!
- Was Solar Powered; During the mission, the Rover and Pathfinder base station utilized solar panels for power generation.
- Collected Extensive Data; Over the 83 days stay, this martian rover explored rocky terrains by conducting analysis and picturing samples. It sent around 8.3 million temperature, wind, and pressure measurements to Earth. It also revealed the morning ice clouds at Mars.
- Speed; It had a rate of only two feet per minute.
- A Movie Features it; The movie named The Martian, starring Matt Damon, features its presence. The plots revolved around an astronaut that gets lost on the red planet. Upon finding the Pathfinder and Sojourner, he uses them to contact Earth for escape.
- Its Rocks Have Cartoon Names; The rocks studied by Sojourner ended with cartoon names like Scooby-Doo, Barnacle Bill, and Yogi.
Interesting Facts About Spirit
Spirit Rover was sent to Mars for Exploration with its twin Opportunity. It was a 6-wheeled rover, launched in 2003.
- It is the twin that got beached! Stuck in the Martian Soil, Spirit rover got beached because of rock under its belly in soft sand. Despite extensive efforts to retrieve the rover, the last communication NASA had with it was over six years after it landed!
- It Outlasted The Planned Exploration Window; The surface rover mission was to last 90 days. Surprisingly, the rover continued for six years, two months, and eighteen days instead! It took longer than the Viking 2 Lander.
- Took The First Earth Photo From Another Planet; Spirit has the honor of capturing the first earth image from not only a red planet but any other planet of the cosmic realms. It also caught the Mars moon Deimos transition to the sun.
- Discovered White Silica; In 2006, the front wheel of Spirit was no longer functional. Hence, scientists geared it backward and found white silica on the Martian surface.
- It has an asteroid named after it. To honor the efforts of this robotic rover, NASA has named an asteroid after it.
- Speed. The rover moved at the rate of 0.05m/s. That is a little faster than only a snail.
- Collected Lots of Pictures; Spirit has sent 128,224 pictures of Mars to Earth. Its objective was to locate and study past water activity.
Interesting Facts About Opportunity
For nearly fifteen years, Opportunity has reigned over Martian surface exploration. It got launched with its sister twin rover, Spirit, that got beached. We owe a lot of knowledge about Mars to this little 6-wheeled rover!
- Showed the wet and warm conditions of Mars; It was Opportunity and Spirit that revealed proof of a favorable environment for life on Mars. Evidence suggests that Mars had a habitable environment before it went under a cataclysmic climate change.
- Outlasted its 90 days trip; For fifteen years, Opportunity has sent us records and details of Mars.
- Has a Sleep Mode; The rover goes in sleep mode when not in use. It is also solar-powered.
- It was at one of the highest points on Mars; Opportunity took a high panoramic picture on Cape Tribulation, the highest point known on Mars.
- Has American Flag Print; There is a print of decal of the American flag on the aluminum cable guard.
Interesting Facts About Curiosity
For eight years, Curiosity has traversed the Martian surface. Its only purpose and question has been: was this red planet ever inhabitable?
It was launched in 2011 and reached the planet in 2012.
- Discovered Mineral and Chemical Evidence. According to the samples collected, Mars did have a habitable planet for life in the past.
- Exceeded its Operational Lifespan; The rover well-exceeded its lifespan, designed for at least one Martian year. It stayed there for eight earth years.
- Snapped a 1.8 billion-pixel panorama; According to NASA, this 1.8 billion-pixel panorama is the highest and largest resolution a rover has ever captured on Mars. It also yielded important discoveries about the water history on the planet.
- New landing got tested; The spacecraft had to descend to the surface with a parachute. Then, during the final seconds before touching down on Martian soil, the landing system fired rockets so it could hover over the surface while a tether lowered the Curiosity rover safely. It was then severed, letting the landing system fly away to crash land. There were seven minutes of terror. The landing was a success!
- NASA’s Perseverance model is on it; To keep risks and costs low, the recent rover Perseverance that touched down in 2021 this year was after Curiosity.
Interesting Facts About Perseverance
Perseverance is the fifth rover to land on Mars. It touched down on the Martian surface on February 18th, 2021. It will stay at least one year there and collect data.
- Say Hi to Helicopter Ingenuity. Accompanied by the rover is the first-ever helicopter to take off the Martian surface. Its success can mean that we can send astronauts and get them back to Earth! The test is essential as the Martian atmosphere is thin.
- Has a Quest For Ancient Life; The main goal of Perseverance is to hunt for ancient life. It has landed in the Jezero Crater, which is said to be an ancient lake. Hence, microbiologists expect it to have signs of life. It will collect samples in hopes of getting them to Earth for analysis. It will also study the geology and climate of the planet.
- Was Named by a 7th Grader; NASA held a contest for naming the rover across K-12 schools in the country. A 7th grader named Alexander Mather won with the suggestion of Perseverance — for humans will preserve into the future as species of exploration and wanderers.
- Had Seven Minutes of Terror; The rover used an autonomous AI-powered method for landing. It entered, descended, and landed into a place of its own choice. There were seven minutes of terror before it could send a signal of success.
- Is As Heavy as a Hippo; The rover weighs 2260 pounds, making itself the heaviest rover on the Martian surface. For context, Sojourner weighed 23 pounds, Spirit and Opportunity weighed 374 pounds each, and Curiosity weighed 1,982 pounds only.
With the recent perseverance success, there is more to explore Mars. From NASA’s objectives of looking for extraterrestrial life to Musk’s goal of colonizing Mars with SpaceX, stay tuned, for we might soon take ourselves to space out there. Don’t forget to read our take on if we can live on Mars!