Monday, August 6, 2012

Top 5 Mars Rovers

Curiosity
The Curiosity rover, part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, should have touched down on the red planet by the time you read this.  Part of Curiosity's mission as a roving chemistry set involves investigating Mars's ability to sustain life.  For this momentous occasion, we bring you the top 5 Mars landers/rovers of all time!  (The list is to date--here's hoping Curiosity outshines them all!)

Spirit
5: Spirit - Active from January 2004 through 2010.  Designed to run for three months, the little rover that could (along with its sister, Opportunity) operated for more than half a decade as a rover geologist, continuing its mission of looking into whether Mars was ever suitable for life.

Phoenix
4: Phoenix - Active for six months in 2008.  In the Mars polar ice-cap region, Phoenix found deposits of underground ice and calcium carbonate (which possibly indicates the presence of thawed water), and observed snow fall.  Further investigations suggested soil chemistry with significant implications for life.

Sojourner
3: Sojourner - Active for two months in 1997.  Sojourner is the rover from the Mars Pathfinder mission, the first to successfully land on Mars since the Viking landers in 1975.  The mission had various scientific objectives, but was most notable for being a relatively inexpensive alternative to other unmanned space missions, and served as a proof of concept for several technologies used in later missions to Mars.

Viking 2
2: Viking 1 and 2 - Active over six years from 1975 to 1980 (Viking 1) and approximately five years starting 1976 (Viking 2).  Viking 1 was the first craft to successfully land on Mars and perform its mission, which it shared with Viking 2, and which consisted of soil analysis and the search for clues to (what else?) life on Mars.  The Viking landers transmitted data regarding elements and minerals present in Mars's soil, as well as information that either supported or detracted from the possibility of Mars being habitable, depending on your level of optimism and your interpretation of the data.

Opportunity
1: Opportunity - Active January 2004 to the present.  Opportunity, like Spirit, was designed to run for three months with essentially the same mission, but is still returning useful data almost a decade after landing.

Good luck to the Curiosity team--with any luck we'll be seeing fresh, crisp pictures from mars any minute now...  Check out the live (at the time of this post) coverage from NASA here, and don't forget to share this post with your friends, and like the Kooz Top 5 on Facebook.

2 comments:

  1. Best comment I've seen about this post (from Facebook): "Sojourner looks like a Battlebot."

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  2. My #1 is the RX-M, which - much like the Opportunity and Spirit - significantly overshot its intended mission (which was actually to go to the moon). That, and it launched in 1950!


    My #2 would've been Capricorn One, but as everybody knows, that mission failed, and NASA tried to cover it all up with a hoax to prevent the bad publicity.

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