Mars rover

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NASA's Curiosity rover, selfie, 2015

A Mars rover is a remote-controlled

Mars helicopter

As of May 2021, there have been six successful robotically operated Mars rovers; the first five, managed by the American

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, were (by date of Mars landing): Sojourner (1997), Spirit (2004–2010), Opportunity (2004–2018), Curiosity (2012–present), and Perseverance (2021–present). The sixth, managed by the China National Space Administration, is Zhurong

On January 24, 2016,

organic carbon on Mars is now a primary NASA objective.[1][6]

The Soviet probes, Mars 2 and Mars 3, were physically tethered probes; Sojourner was dependent on the Mars Pathfinder base station for communication with Earth; Opportunity, Spirit and Curiosity were on their own. As of November 2023, Curiosity is still active, while Spirit, Opportunity, and Sojourner completed their missions before losing contact. On February 18, 2021, Perseverance, the newest American Mars rover, successfully landed. On May 14, 2021, China's Zhurong became the first non-American rover to successfully operate on Mars.


Multiple rovers have been dispatched to Mars:

Rover and lander captured by HiRISE from NASA's MRO on June 6, 2021
Zhurong rover and lander captured by HiRISE from NASA's MRO on 6 June 2021



Sojourner disembarks Mars Pathfinder base station lander on the surface of planet Mars
  • Sojourner rover, Mars Pathfinder, landed successfully on July 4, 1997. Communications were lost on September 27, 1997. Sojourner had traveled a distance of just over 100 meters (330 ft).[17]
  • Spirit (MER-A), Mars Exploration Rover (MER), launched on June 10, 2003,[18] and landed on January 4, 2004. Nearly 6 years after the original mission limit, Spirit had covered a total distance of 7.73 km (4.80 mi) but its wheels became trapped in sand.[19] The last communication received from the rover was on March 22, 2010, and NASA ceased attempts to re-establish communication on May 25, 2011.[20]
  • 2018 Mars dust storm blocked the sunlight needed to recharge its batteries.[21]
    After hundreds of attempts to reactivate the rover, NASA declared the mission complete on February 13, 2019.
  • Tianwen-1 CNSA Mars mission on July 23, 2020, landed on May 14, 2021, in the southern region of Utopia Planitia, and deployed on May 22, 2021, while dropping a remote selfie camera on 1 June 2021.[22][23] Designed for a lifespan of 90 sols (93 Earth days),[24] Zhurong had been active for 347 sols (356.5 days) since its deployment and traveled on Mars's surface for 1,921 m (6,302 ft).[25] Since 20 May 2022, the rover was deactivated due to approaching sandstorms and Martian winter.[26][27] But the larger-than-expected build-up of dust covering its solar panels prevented it from self-reactivation. On 25 April 2023, the mission designer Zhang Rongqiao announced that the buildup of dust from the last inactivation is greater than planned, indicating the rover could be inactive "forever".[28]


  • Mars 2, PrOP-M rover, 1971, Mars 2 landing failed taking Prop-M with it. The Mars 2 and 3 spacecraft from the Soviet Union had identical 4.5 kg Prop-M rovers. They were to move on skis while connected to the landers with cables.[29]
  • Mars 3, PrOP-M rover, landed successfully on December 2, 1971. 4.5 kilograms (9.9 lb) rover tethered to the Mars 3 lander. Lost when the Mars 3 lander stopped communicating about 110 seconds after landing.[29] The loss of communication may have been due to the extremely powerful Martian dust storm taking place at the time or an issue with the Mars 3 orbiter's ability to relay communications.


  • The European-Russian ExoMars rover Rosalind Franklin was confirmed technically ready for launch in March 2022 and planned to launch in September 2022, but due to the suspension of cooperation with Roscosmos this is delayed until at least 2028. A fast-track study was started to determine alternative launch options.[30]
  • The Russian Moscow Aviation Institute and the Indian IIT are jointly developing a fixed-wing Mars UAV which as of March 2023 is scheduled for launch in late 2025.[31]


  • The
    Melos rover
    was supposed to be launched in 2022. JAXA has not given an update since 2015.
  • NASA Mars Geyser Hopper
  • ISRO has proposed a Mars rover as part of Mangalyaan-3, its third Mars mission in 2030.[32]


Timeline of rover surface operations

Zhurong (rover)Perseverance (rover)Curiosity (rover)Opportunity (rover)Spirit (rover)Sojourner (rover)

Examples of instruments

Mount Sharp
is in the background (September 8, 2012).
Opportunity's first self-portrait including the camera mast on Mars
(February 14−20, 2018 / sols 4998−5004). It was taken with its microscopic imager instrument.

Examples of instruments onboard landed rovers include:

Mars landing locations

Map of Mars
global topography of Mars, overlaid with the position of Martian rovers and landers. Coloring of the base map indicates relative elevations of Martian surface.
Clickable image: Clicking on the labels will open a new article.
Legend:   Active (white lined, ※)  Inactive  Planned (dash lined, ⁂) )
Bradbury Landing
Deep Space 2
Mars Polar Lander
Schiaparelli EDM
Viking 1
Mars Landing Sites (December 16, 2020)

NASA Mars rover goals

Circa the 2010s, NASA had established certain goals for the rover program.

NASA distinguishes between "mission" objectives and "science" objectives. Mission objectives are related to progress in space technology and development processes. Science objectives are met by the instruments during their mission in space.

The science instruments are chosen and designed based on the science objectives and goals. The primary goal of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers was to investigate "the history of water on Mars".[41]

The four science goals of NASA's long-term Mars Exploration Program are:

Panorama of Husband Hill taken by the Spirit rover (November 2005)


  • Mars rovers
  • Sojourner rover on Mars
    Sojourner rover on Mars
  • Comparison of wheels: Mars Sojourner rover, MER, MSL
    Comparison of wheels: Mars Sojourner rover, MER, MSL
  • Comparison (2008): MER, Sojourner rover, MSL
    Comparison (2008): MER, Sojourner rover, MSL
  • Comparison (2011): MER, Sojourner rover, humans, MSL
    Comparison (2011): MER, Sojourner rover, humans, MSL
Opportunity rover later visited its heat shield impact site; it was ejected during the rover's descent and impacted the surface separately.
Comparison of the distances travelled by various Mars rovers

See also


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  5. ^ "Planetary Scientists Have Created a Map of Mars' Entire Ancient River Systems". Universe Today. 2020-12-30. Retrieved 2020-12-31.
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  11. ^ Agle, D. C. (28 March 2012). "'Mount Sharp' On Mars Links Geology's Past and Future". NASA. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  12. ^ Staff (29 March 2012). "NASA's New Mars Rover Will Explore Towering 'Mount Sharp'". Retrieved 30 March 2012.
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  14. ^ Chow, Dennis (22 July 2011). "NASA's Next Mars Rover to Land at Huge Gale Crater". Retrieved 2011-07-22.
  15. ^ Amos, Jonathan (22 July 2011). "Mars rover aims for deep crater". BBC News. Retrieved 2011-07-22.
  16. ^ "Nasa's Perseverance rover lands on Mars". BBC News. 18 February 2021. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  17. ^ "Sojourner". Archived from the original on 2015-03-20.
  18. ^ a b "Mars Exploration". 10 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
  19. ^ Boyle, Alan. "Good moves on Mars". MSNBC. Archived from the original on 2010-01-23. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  20. ^ "NASA Concludes Attempts To Contact Mars Rover Spirit". NASA. May 24, 2011. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011.
  21. ^ "Mars Exploration Rover Mission: All Opportunity Updates". Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  22. ^ Gebhardt, Chris (February 10, 2021). "China, with Tianwen-1, begins tenure at Mars with successful orbital arrival".
  23. ^ "First Chinese Mars probe successfully landed with a rover".
  24. ^ Jones, Andrew (30 July 2021). "China's Zhurong Mars rover scopes out dunes on journey south".
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  26. S2CID 256056375
    . Retrieved 10 February 2023.
  27. ^ Cheung, Rachel (13 March 2023). "China's Mars Rover Has Not Moved Since September, NASA Images Revealed". Vice News.
  28. ^ Hart, Robert (25 April 2023). "China's Mars rover is stuck sleeping after harsh martian winter". Forbes.
  29. ^ a b "Mars 2 Lander". NASA NSSDC. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
  30. ^ "Rover ready – next steps for ExoMars". Retrieved 2022-04-23.
  31. ^ "Russia and India jointly developing Mars UAV". March 2023. Retrieved 3 March 2023.
  32. ^ Neeraj Srivastava; S. Vijayan; Amit Basu Sarbadhikari (2022-09-27), "Future Exploration of the Inner Solar System: Scope and the Focus Areas", Planetary Sciences Division (PSDN), Physical Research Laboratory – via ISRO Facebook Panel Discussion, Mars Orbiter Mission National Meet
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  34. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (20 April 2011). "ESA Halts Work on ExoMars Orbiter and Rover". Space News. Archived from the original on May 24, 2012. Retrieved 2011-04-21.
  35. ^ Svitak, Amy (18 April 2011). "U.S., Europe Plan Single-rover Mars Mission for 2018". Space News. Archived from the original on May 24, 2012. Retrieved 2011-04-21.
  36. ^ "NASA - NSSDCA - Spacecraft - Details".
  37. ^ Kimberly W. Land (May 13, 2003). "A new way to explore the surface of Mars". NASA. Retrieved 2011-04-04.
  38. ^ The Tumbleweed Rover is on a Roll. Anna Heiney, KSC NASA. 11 March 2004.
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  41. ^ "Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Overview". Archived from the original on 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
  42. ^ "Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Science – Looking for signs of past water on Mars". Archived from the original on 2008-05-22. Retrieved 2008-06-25.

External links