Category: rover

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Reinventing the Wheel

Planning a trip to the Moon? Mars? You’re going
to need good tires…

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Exploration requires mobility. And whether you’re on Earth
or as far away as the Moon or Mars, you need good tires to get your vehicle
from one place to another. Our decades-long work developing tires for space
exploration has led to new game-changing designs and materials. Yes, we’re
reinventing the wheel—here’s why.

Wheels on the Moon

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Early tire designs were focused on moving hardware and
astronauts across the lunar surface. The last NASA vehicle to visit the Moon
was the Lunar Roving Vehicle during our Apollo
missions
. The vehicle used four large flexible wire mesh wheels with stiff
inner frames. We used these Apollo era tires as the inspiration for new designs
using newer materials and technology to better function on a lunar surface.

Up springs a new idea

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During the mid-2000s, we worked with industry partner
Goodyear to develop the Spring
Tire
, an airless compliant tire that consists of several hundred coiled
steel wires woven into a flexible mesh, giving the tires the ability to support
high loads while also conforming to the terrain. The Spring Tire has been
proven to generate very good traction and durability in soft sand and on rocks.

Spring Tires for Mars

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A little over a year after the Mars Curiosity Rover landed
on Mars, engineers began to notice significant wheel damage in 2013 due to the
unexpectedly harsh terrain. That’s when engineers began developing new Spring Tire
prototypes to determine if they would be a new and better solution for
exploration rovers on Mars.

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In order for Spring Tires to go the distance on Martian
terrain, new materials were required. Enter nickel titanium,
a shape memory alloy with amazing capabilities that allow the tire to deform
down to the axle and return to its original shape.

These tires can take a lickin’

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After building the shape memory alloy tire, Glenn engineers
sent it to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mars Life Test Facility. It
performed impressively on the punishing track.

Why reinvent the wheel? It’s worth it.

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New, high performing tires would allow lunar and Mars rovers
to explore greater regions of the surface than currently possible. They conform
to the terrain and do not sink as much as rigid wheels, allowing them to carry
heavier payloads for the same given mass and volume. Also, because they absorb
energy from impacts at moderate to high speeds, there is potential for use on
crewed exploration vehicles which are expected to move at speeds significantly
higher than the current Mars rovers.

Airless tires on Earth

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Maybe. Recently, engineers and materials scientists have
been testing a spinoff tire version that would work on cars and trucks on
Earth. Stay tuned as we
continue to push the boundaries on traditional concepts for exploring our world
and beyond.  

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Solar System: 10 Things to Know This Week

Every day, our spacecraft and people are exploring the solar system. Both the public and the private sectors are contributing to the quest. For example, here are ten things happening just this week:

1. We deliver. 

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The commercial space company Orbital ATK is targeting Saturday, Nov. 11 for the launch of its Cygnus spacecraft on an Antares rocket from Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. Cygnus is launching on a resupply mission to the International Space Station, carrying cargo and scientific experiments to the six people currently living on the microgravity laboratory. 

2. See for yourself. 

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Social media users are invited to register to attend another launch in person, this one of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This launch, currently targeted for no earlier than December, will be the next commercial cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The deadline to apply is Nov. 7. Apply HERE.

3. Who doesn’t like to gaze at the Moon?

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Our Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) sure does—and from very close range. This robotic spacecraft has been orbiting Earth’s companion since 2009, returning views of the lunar surface that are so sharp they show the footpaths made by Apollo astronauts. Learn more about LRO and the entire history of lunar exploration at NASA’s newly-updated, expanded Moon site: moon.nasa.gov

4. Meanwhile at Mars…

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Another sharp-eyed robotic spacecraft has just delivered a fresh batch of equally detailed images. Our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) surveys the Red Planet’s surface daily, and you can see the very latest pictures of those exotic landscapes HERE. We currently operate five—count ‘em, five—active missions at Mars, with another (the InSight lander) launching next year. Track them all at: mars.nasa.gov.

5. Always curious. 

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One of those missions is the Curiosity rover. It’s currently climbing a rocky highland dubbed Vera Rubin Ridge, turning its full array of instruments on the intriguing geology there. Using those instruments, Curiosity can see things you and I can’t.

6. A new Dawn. 

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Our voyage to the asteroid belt has a new lease on life. The Dawn spacecraft recently received a mission extension to continue exploring the dwarf planet Ceres. This is exciting because minerals containing water are widespread on Ceres, suggesting it may have had a global ocean in the past. What became of that ocean? Could Ceres still have liquid today? Ongoing studies from Dawn could shed light on these questions.

7. There are eyes everywhere. 

When our Mars Pathfinder touched down in 1997, it had five cameras: two on a mast that popped up from the lander, and three on the rover, Sojourner. Since then, photo sensors that were improved by the space program have shrunk in size, increased in quality and are now carried in every cellphone. That same evolution has returned to space. Our Mars 2020 mission will have more “eyes” than any rover before it: a grand total of 23, to create sweeping panoramas, reveal obstacles, study the atmosphere, and assist science instruments.

8. Voyage to a hidden ocean.

One of the most intriguing destinations in the solar system is Jupiter’s moon Europa, which hides a global ocean of liquid water beneath its icy shell. Our Europa Clipper mission sets sail in the 2020s to take a closer look than we’ve ever had before. You can explore Europa, too: europa.nasa.gov

9. Flight of the mockingbird. 

On Nov. 10, the main belt asteroid 19482 Harperlee, named for the legendary author of To Kill a Mockingbird, makes its closest approach to Earth during the asteroid’s orbit around the Sun. Details HERE. Learn more about asteroids HERE. Meanwhile, our OSIRIS-REx mission is now cruising toward another tiny, rocky world called Bennu.

10. What else is up this month? 

For sky watchers, there will be a pre-dawn pairing of Jupiter and Venus, the Moon will shine near some star clusters, and there will be meteor activity all month long. Catch our monthly video blog for stargazers HERE.

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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

What’s next for NASA? A quick look at some of the big things coming up:

1. We will add to our existing robotic fleet at the Red Planet with the InSight Mars lander set to study the planet’s interior.

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This terrestrial planet explorer will address one of the most fundamental issues of planetary and solar system science – understanding the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system (including Earth) more than four billion years ago.

2. The Mars 2020 rover will look for signs of past microbial life, gather samples for potential future return to Earth.

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The Mars 2020 mission takes the next step by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on the Red Planet in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself. The Mars 2020 rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside in a “cache” on the surface of Mars.

3. The James Webb Space Telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, studying the history of our Universe in infrared.

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Webb will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own solar system.

4. The Parker Solar Probe will “touch the Sun,” traveling closer to the surface than any spacecraft before.

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This spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the sun’s atmosphere about 4 million miles from our star’s surface. Parker Solar Probe and its four suites of instruments – studying magnetic and electric fields, energetic particles, and the solar wind – will be protected from the Sun’s enormous heat by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite heat shield.

5. Our OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrives at the near-Earth asteroid Bennu in August 2018, and will return a sample for study in 2023.

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This mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.

6. Launching in 2018, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will search for planets around 200,000 bright, nearby stars.

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The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is the next step in the search for planets outside of our solar system (exoplanets), including those that could support life. The mission will find exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars, events called transits.

7. A mission to Jupiter’s ocean-bearing moon Europa is being planned for launch in the 2020s.

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The mission will place a spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter in order to perform a detailed investigation of Europa – a world that shows strong evidence for an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust and which could host conditions favorable for life.

8. We will launch our first integrated test flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, known as Exploration Mission-1.

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The Space Launch System rocket will launch with Orion atop it. During Exploration Mission-1, Orion will venture thousands of miles beyond the moon during an approximately three week mission.

9. We are looking at what a flexible deep space gateway near the Moon could be.

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We’ve issued a draft announcement seeking U.S. industry-led studies for an advanced solar electric propulsion (SEP) vehicle capability. The studies will help define required capabilities and reduce risk for the 50 kilowatt-class SEP needed for the agency’s near-term exploration goals.

10. Want to know more? Read the full story.

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Curiosity Rover: Five Years on Mars

The evening of August 5, 2012…five years ago…our Mars Curiosity rover landed on the Red Planet. 

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Arriving at Mars at 10:32 p.m. PDT (morning of Aug 6 EDT), this rover would prove to be the most technologically advanced rover ever built.

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Curiosity used a series of complicated landing maneuvers never before attempted. 

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The specialized landing sequence, which employed a giant parachute, a jet-controlled descent vehicle and a daring “sky crane” maneuver similar to rappelling was devised because testing and landing techniques used during previous rover missions could not safely accommodate the much larger and heavier rover.

Curiosity’s mission: To determine whether the Red Planet ever was, or is, habitable to microbial life.

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The car-size rover is equipped with 17 cameras, a robotic arm, specialized instruments and an on-board laboratory.

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Let’s explore Curiosity’s top 5 discoveries since she landed on Mars five years ago…

1. Gale Crater had conditions suitable for life about 3.5 billion years ago

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In 2013, Curiosity’s analysis of a rock sample showed that ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon – some of the key chemical ingredients for life – in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater.

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Later, in 2014, Curiosity discovered that these conditions lasted for millions of years, perhaps much longer. This interpretation of Curiosity’s findings in Gale Crater suggests ancient Mars maintained a climate that could have produced long-lasting lakes at many locations on the Red Planet.

2. Organic molecules detected at several locations

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In 2014, our Curiosity rover drilled into the Martian surface and detected different organic chemicals in the rock powder. This was the first definitive detection of organics in surface materials of Mars. These Martian organics could either have formed on Mars or been delivered to Mars by meteorites. 

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Curiosity’s findings from analyzing samples of atmosphere and rock powder do not reveal whether Mars has ever harbored living microbes, but the findings do shed light on a chemically active modern Mars and on favorable conditions for life on ancient Mars.

3. Present and active methane in Mars’ atmosphere

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Also in 2014, our Curiosity rover measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around the planet. This temporary increase in methane tells us there must be some relatively localized source.

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Researchers used Curiosity’s onboard Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory a dozen times in a 20-month period to sniff methane in the atmosphere. During two of those months, in late 2013 and early 2014, four measurements averaged seven parts per billion.

4. Radiation could pose health risks for humans

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Measurements taken by our Curiosity rover since launch have provided us with the information needed to design systems to protect human explorers from radiation exposure on deep-space expeditions in the future. Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) was the first instrument to measure the radiation environment during a Mars cruise mission from inside a spacecraft that is similar to potential human exploration spacecraft.

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The findings indicate radiation exposure for human explorers could exceed our career limit for astronauts if current propulsion systems are used. These measurements are being used to better understand how radiation travels through deep space and how it is affected and changed by the spacecraft structure itself. This, along with research on the International Space Station are helping us develop countermeasures to the impacts of radiation on the human body.

5. A thicker atmosphere and more water in Mars past

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In 2015, Curiosity discovered evidence that has led scientists to conclude that ancient Mars was once a warmer, wetter place than it is today. 

To produce this more temperate climate, several researchers have suggested that the planet was once shrouded in a much thicker carbon dioxide atmosphere. You may be asking…Where did all the carbon go?

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The solar wind stripped away much of Mars’ ancient atmosphere and is still removing tons of it every day. That said, 3.8 billion years ago, Mars might have had a moderately dense atmosphere, with a surface pressure equal to or less than that found on Earth.

Our Curiosity rover continues to explore the Red Planet today. On average, the rover travels about 30 meters per hour and is currently on the lower slope of Mount Sharp.

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Get regular updates on the Curiosity mission by following @MarsCuriosity on Twitter.

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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

This week, we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the moment our Mars Science Laboratory mission landed the Curiosity rover in Gale Crater. 

In fact, this summer brings several red letter days in Red Planet exploration. Here are 10 things to know about the anniversary of the Curiosity landing—plus some other arrivals at Mars you may not know about.

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This self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at a drilled sample site called “Okoruso,” on the “Naukluft Plateau” of lower Mount Sharp. The scene combines multiple images taken with the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on May 11, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS

1. Seven Minutes of Terror 

For Curiosity, landing on Mars meant slowing from about 13,000 MPH (21,000 KPH) to a full stop in just seven minutes. Engineers came up with an innovative–and bold–plan to make this happen, but no one could be 100% certain it would work. In this video, some of the Curiosity engineers who designed the entry, descent and landing system for the mission talk candidly about the challenges of Curiosity’s final moments before touchdown in August 2012.

2. Sweet Success 

Relive the tension, and the celebration, of the night Curiosity landed on Mars. You can also simulate the entire landing process in 3-D on your own computer using NASA’s free Eyes on the Solar System app.

3. Echoes of Ancient Waters 

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What has Curiosity discovered during its roving so far? The key takeaway: the stark deserts of Gale Crater were once home to lakes and streams of liquid water, a place where life could potentially have thrived. Learn more about the mission’s scientific findings.

4. Pretty as a Postcard

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Sometimes science can be beautiful, as pictures from Mars prove. You can peruse some of Curiosity’s best shots. What’s more, you can see the very latest images—often on the same day they’re downlinked from Mars.

5. Take It for a Spin

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Have you ever wanted to try driving a Mars rover yourself? You can (virtually anyway). Try the Experience Curiosity app right in your web browser.

6. Mars Trekking 

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Maybe someday you’ll be able to take a day hike across the Martian landscape. You can at least plan your route right now, using NASA’s Mars Trek site. This interactive mapping tool lets you explore important Red Planet locations using actual terrain imagery from orbiting satellites. You can even retrace the real locations on Mars where the fictional astronaut Mark Watney traveled in “The Martian.”

7. A First Time for Everything

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Curiosity stands (well, rolls) on the shoulders of giants. Several NASA missions blazed the trail for the current crop of robotic explorers. The first was Mariner 4, which is also celebrating an anniversary this summer. Mariner 4 was the first spacecraft to return photos of another planet from deep space when it flew by Mars on July 15, 1965. Mariner engineers were so impatient to see the first pictures it sent back, that they hand-colored a printout of raw numeric data sent by the spacecraft, in order to construct one of the first color images of Mars.

8. Pathfinders and Panoramas 

Another important pathfinder on Mars was…Mars Pathfinder. This mission just marked its 20th anniversary. To commemorate the first successful Mars rover, NASA created a new 360-degree VR panorama of its landing site you can view right in your browser.

9. One Small Step for a Robot

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The first spacecraft to make a successful landing on Mars was Viking 1, which touched down in the Chryse Planitia region on July 20, 1976. It worked for more than six years, performing the first Martian soil analysis using its robotic arm and an onbaord biological laboratory. While it found no conclusive evidence of life, Viking 1 did help us understand Mars as a planet with volcanic soil, a thin, dry carbon dioxide atmosphere and striking evidence for ancient river beds and vast flooding.

10. Mars Explorers Needed 

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There is much more to come. The next Mars lander, InSight, is slated for launch next year. Ride along with NASA’s ongoing adventures on the Red Planet at: mars.nasa.gov/mars-exploration/

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Here’s What Actually Happens Inside Our Lunar Lab

Water is a precious resource – especially on the Moon! In the near future, robotic rovers may roam the Moon’s poles in search of hidden reservoirs of water beneath the lunar surface. But traversing the poles can be a perilous journey. Depending on the Sun’s position in the sky and the way that its light falls on the surface, hazards such as boulders and craters can be difficult, if not impossible, to see. 

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Inside our Lunar Lab at Ames Research Center, researchers are using Hollywood light kits and a giant sandbox filled with 8 tons of artificial Moon dirt to simulate driving conditions at the poles. The research aims to provide rovers and their human supervisors with 3-D hazard maps of the Moon’s terrain, helping them to avoid potential obstacles that lie ahead. 

Here’s how it works:

STEP 1: GENERATE A MOON MAP

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Researchers begin with a map of the Moon’s terrain that’s randomly generated by a computer, based on real orbital data. The map indicates the number, location and size of features like rocks and craters that should be placed inside the 12×12-foot testbed.

STEP 2: BUILD A MOONSCAPE

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Using the map as a guide, researchers build the terrain by hand with everyday tools. The terrain is then dusted with a top layer of artificial Moon dirt to eliminate shovel and brush marks.

STEP 3: CAPTURE IMAGES

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Lights are positioned at different locations around the testbed. One by one, the lights are switched on and off while a camera captures images of the terrain. Notice how the appearance of the terrain changes depending on the source of illumination.

STEP 4: CREATE A 3-D MODEL

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Using a computer algorithm, a 3-D hazard detection model of the terrain is generated from the images. The model provides important information about the size of an obstacle, its height and where it’s located.

STEP 5: GO EXPLORING

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With this technique, researchers can teach a rover to recognize the effect of different lighting conditions on the Moon’s poles. The tool could come in handy for future lunar rover missions like Resource Prospector, which will use a drill to search for subsurface water and other compounds on the Moon.

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The Past, Present and Future of Exploration on Mars

Today, we’re celebrating the Red Planet! Since our first close-up picture of Mars in 1965, spacecraft voyages to the Red Planet have revealed a world strangely familiar, yet different enough to challenge our perceptions of what makes a planet work.

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You’d think Mars would be easier to understand. Like Earth, Mars has polar ice caps and clouds in its atmosphere, seasonal weather patterns, volcanoes, canyons and other recognizable features. However, conditions on Mars vary wildly from what we know on our own planet.

Join us as we highlight some of the exploration on Mars from the past, present and future:

PAST

Viking Landers

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Our Viking Project found a place in history when it became the first U.S. mission to land a spacecraft safely on the surface of Mars and return images of the surface. Two identical spacecraft, each consisting of a lander and an orbiter, were built. Each orbiter-lander pair flew together and entered Mars orbit; the landers then separated and descended to the planet’s surface.

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Besides taking photographs and collecting other science data, the two landers conducted three biology experiments designed to look for possible signs of life.

Pathfinder Rover

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In 1997, Pathfinder was the first-ever robotic rover to land on the surface of Mars. It was designed as a technology demonstration of a new way to deliver an instrumented lander to the surface of a planet. Mars Pathfinder used an innovative method of directly entering the Martian atmosphere, assisted by a parachute to slow its descent and a giant system of airbags to cushion the impact.

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Pathfinder not only accomplished its goal but also returned an unprecedented amount of data and outlived its primary design life.

PRESENT

Spirit and Opportunity

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In January 2004, two robotic geologists named Spirit and Opportunity landed on opposite sides of the Red Planet. With far greater mobility than the 1997 Mars Pathfinder rover, these robotic explorers have trekked for miles across the Martian surface, conducting field geology and making atmospheric observations. Carrying identical, sophisticated sets of science instruments, both rovers have found evidence of ancient Martian environments where intermittently wet and habitable conditions existed.

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Both missions exceeded their planned 90-day mission lifetimes by many years. Spirit lasted 20 times longer than its original design until its final communication to Earth on March 22, 2010. Opportunity continues to operate more than a decade after launch.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

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Our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter left Earth in 2005 on a search for evidence that water persisted on the surface of Mars for a long period of time. While other Mars missions have shown that water flowed across the surface in Mars’ history, it remained a mystery whether water was ever around long enough to provide a habitat for life.

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In addition to using the rover to study Mars, we’re using data and imagery from this mission to survey possible future human landing sites on the Red Planet.

Curiosity

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The Curiosity rover is the largest and most capable rover ever sent to Mars. It launched November 26, 2011 and landed on Mars on Aug. 5, 2012. Curiosity set out to answer the question: Did Mars ever have the right environmental conditions to support small life forms called microbes? 

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Early in its mission, Curiosity’s scientific tools found chemical and mineral evidence of past habitable environments on Mars. It continues to explore the rock record from a time when Mars could have been home to microbial life.

FUTURE

Space Launch System Rocket

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We’re currently building the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). When completed, this rocket will enable astronauts to begin their journey to explore destinations far into the solar system, including Mars.

Orion Spacecraft

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The Orion spacecraft will sit atop the Space Launch System rocket as it launches humans deeper into space than ever before. Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.

Mars 2020

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The Mars 2020 rover mission takes the next step in exploration of the Red Planet by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself.

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The Mars 2020 rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside in a “cache” on the surface of Mars. The mission will also test a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identify other resources (such as subsurface water), improve landing techniques and characterize weather, dust and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on the Red Planet.

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For decades, we’ve sent orbiters, landers and rovers, dramatically increasing our knowledge about the Red Planet and paving the way for future human explorers. Mars is the next tangible frontier for human exploration, and it’s an achievable goal. There are challenges to pioneering Mars, but we know they are solvable. 

To discover more about Mars exploration, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/journeytomars/index.html

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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

We marked the 20th anniversary of Pathfinder’s landing on Mars this week. 

We have had an active robotic presence there ever since—in fact, no one under 20 has experienced a day without NASA at Mars—but the Pathfinder mission was the first-ever robotic rover to explore the Red Planet. Below are 10 things to know about this iconic mission as we celebrate two decades of unprecedented science and discovery.

1. A Date to Remember

Pathfinder launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Dec. 4, 1996, and landed at Mars’ Ares Vallis on July 4, 1997. The landing site, an ancient flood plain in Mars’ northern hemisphere, is among the rockiest parts of the planet. Scientists chose it because they believed it was a relatively safe surface to land on and contained a wide variety of rocks deposited during a catastrophic flood.

2. Precious Cargo 

Pathfinder delivered to Mars a tiny, 23-pound (11.5 kilogram) rover named Sojourner, which carried scientific instruments to analyze the Martian atmosphere, climate and geology. To put its small size in perspective, the mechanisms at the end of the Curiosity Rover’s robotic arm are heavier than all of Sojourner. You can check out a 360 video of Pathfinder and Sojourner here.

3. Who Named the Rover? 

The name Sojourner was chosen after a year-long, worldwide competition in which students up to 18 years old were invited to write about a historical heroine and how she would translate their accomplishments to the Martian environment. Twelve-year-old Valerie Ambroise of Bridgeport, Connecticut, submitted the winning essay on Sojourner Truth, a Civil War-era abolitionist who made it her mission to “travel up and down the land” advocating for the rights of all people to be free and participate fully in society.

4. Quite the Entrance 

Pathfinder’s landing was innovative and unprecedented. It entered the thin Martian atmosphere assisted by parachute to slow its descent and with a giant system of airbags to cushion the impact. This mission marked the first time this airbag technique was used. Spirit and Opportunity later used the same method successfully.

5. Mobile Matters 

The wireless modem between Pathfinder and Sojourner was a commercial, off-the-shelf product. The project team acquired several and stress-tested them until they found the best ones to send off to Mars.

6. It’s in the Details 

Sojourner had bumpers—actual mechanical fenders—painted with black and white stripes. It also had two forward-facing black-and-white cameras, and one rear-facing camera (all one-third of a Megapixel). And Sojourner’s tiny wheels measured just 12.5 centimeters in diameter.

7. Viral-worthy

Pathfinder was widely regarded as one of the first “internet sensations.” There was so much web traffic from around the world, the entire internet backbone of France crashed under the load.

8. We’re Getting Warmer 

Among the many scientific discoveries from Pathfinder and Sojourner: Rounded pebbles and cobbles at the landing site suggested that Mars might have had running water during a warmer past when liquid water was stable on the planet. Early morning water ice clouds also were seen in the lower atmosphere.

9. Long Live the Mission 

The lander and the rover both outlived their design lives—the lander by nearly three times, and the rover by 12 times.

10. Pathfinder’s Photo Album 

Go back in time and see historical photographs of Pathfinder’s assembly process here.