What are the features of the Mars rover?

Space Exploration Blog

What are the features of the Mars rover?

Alexis Fecteau Mars Rover

What car would a person likely bring with them on a trip to Mars? Chances are, they’ll choose a rugged all-terrain vehicle like a Land Rover. It would be a good choice until it runs out of fuel. And the last time NASA checked, there aren’t any gas stations on Mars either. So far, there’s only been a handful of vehicles that have been to Mars, and none of them were designed to carry humans, explains university student and astrophysics major Alexis Fecteau. These are the Mars rovers.

Before anything else, why are rovers sent to Mars?  And the answer is, for science.  NASA’s Mars exploration program, albeit a fully robotic mission, helps scientists gather data such as rocks, soil samples, and water activity on the planet.  With the rover, it could be verified whether Mars had ice on its surface, explains Alexis Fecteau.

The very first rover to set its wheels on mars was the Sojourner in 1997.  It was named after women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth.  Compared to its latest iteration, the first rover was like a toy measuring 26 inches long, 19 inches wide, and 12 inches tall. It was even given the nickname “microrover.”  Spirit and Opportunity were the next rovers to land in 2004. This time around, they were the size of golf carts standing close to 5 feet and weighing 400 pounds each.  The Curiosity, NASA’s latest Mars Rover, is just about as big as an SUV.  It’s 9’10” long, 9’1” wide, and 7 feet high.

Alexis Fecteau states that all rovers have distinct and unique features that would help them survive Mars.  For example, all of the wheels move independently. So if one tire gets stuck in sand, the rest can maneuver the rover to get itself free.  The rovers were also powered by the sun, can scale mountains, and are designed to withstand Mars’ harsh winters.

Besides survivability, it is also home to several instruments that scientists use to make discoveries.  The Curiosity was equipped with a mast camera, a chemistry and camera complex, navigational cameras, environment monitoring systems, hazard avoidance cameras, robotic arms, alpha particle X-ray spectrometers, chemistry and mineralogy systems, dust removal apparatuses, radiation detectors, and simple analysis systems.

What’s also cute about the Curiosity is that besides the plethora of scientific instruments, it also plays itself the song “Happy Birthday” every Earth year or 365 days it spends on the surface of Mars.