Even though no human has ever stepped on the surface of the Red Planet, the scientific world became closely acquainted with this distant world. This long distance relationship was possible thanks to rovers. These robots on wheels have searched the planet for signs of a past or present habitable environment for 20 years nonstop. Let’s see how NASA managed a Mars conquest in retrospect.
The Mars Conquest Began with Pathfinder Mission in 1997
On July 4, 1997, the first unmanned mission reached the surface of Mars. Aboard was the Pathfinder robotic spacecraft through which NASA managed to gather vital data about this distant planet for the first time from the sight. However, this was just the beginning of a large series of robotic missions to study this world.
This first step also served a second yet equally important purpose. The success of this mission proved that space exploration could be cheaper and faster than one imagines. The operation cost $150 million and took three years for development. Such indices are considered competitive in this industry of space.
Curiosity Remains the Most Comprehensive Rover Ever Sent on Mars
The space agency sent other eight robots to uncover more secrets about Mars. The most notorious rovers are Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. All these missions contributed to an increased body of knowledge that might help settle a Martian colony.
Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004, each with their own three-month mission to deepen Mars conquest. Both of them found solid evidence of liquid water that used to be on Mars. While Spirit went out of order in 2010, its colleague is still roaming the planet.
However, Curiosity rover is by far the boldest Mars conquistador. The rover is the size of a car and has covered so far 95 mile-wide Gale Crater since August 2012. Its work was extremely insightful as it delivered more reasons to believe that this location used to be a standalone habitat with its own source of water.
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