Mars Rover Timeline

  • Mariner 4

    Mariner 4
    The first flybys of Mars. Mariner 3 was lost during launch, but Mariner 4 took the first close up photos of Mars’ craters. Launched on an Atlas rocket with either an Agena or Centaur upper-stage booster, and weighing less than half a ton.
    Collecting the first close-up photographs of another planet. The pictures played back from a small tape recorder over a long period, showed lunar-type impact craters.
    Making coordinated measurements with Mariner 5, a sister ship launched to Venus in 1967.
  • Viking 1&2: Part 1

    Viking 1&2: Part 1
    NASA’s Viking project was the first U.S mission to land a spacecraft safely on Mars and return images of the surface. Both landers were powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators -- devices that create electricity from the heat given off by the natural decay of plutonium. That power source allowed long-term science investigations that otherwise would not have been possible.
  • Viking 1&2: Part 2

    Viking 1&2: Part 2
    Besides taking photographs and collecting other science data on the Martian surface, the two landers did three biology experiments designed to look for possible signs of life.
  • Mars Pathfinder: Part 1

    Mars Pathfinder: Part 1
    The lander and its rover returned images and chemical analyses that suggested that Mars was once warm and wet. It was designed as a technology demonstration of a new way to deliver an instrumented lander and the first-ever robotic rover to the surface of the red planet.
  • Mars Pathfinder: Part 2

    Mars Pathfinder: Part 2
    Pathfinder not only accomplished this goal but also returned a huge amount of data and outlived its primary design life.
    Dust devils were seen and frequently measured by temperature, wind and pressure sensors. Observations suggested that these gusts are a way for mixing dust into the atmosphere. Early morning water ice clouds were seen in the lower atmosphere.
  • Mars Express (ESA): Part 1

    Mars Express (ESA): Part 1
    The European Space Agency’s first spacecraft to visit another planet in the solar system. NASA's involvement with the mission includes joint development of a radar instrument called MARSIS. MARSIS has already provided information about features beneath the Martian surface, including buried impact craters, layered deposits, and hints of deep underground water ice.
  • Mars Express (ESA): Part 2

    Mars Express (ESA): Part 2
    The mission's main objective is to search for subsurface water from orbit. Seven scientific instruments on the orbiting spacecraft have conducted careful investigations to help answer questions about the geology, atmosphere, surface environment, history of water, and potential for life on Mars. Examples of discoveries - still debated by scientists -- by Mars Express are evidence of recent glacial activity, explosive volcanism, and methane gas.
  • Curiosity Rover: Part 1

    Curiosity Rover: Part 1
    The largest and the most capable rover ever sent to Mars descended from a parachute and then fired rockets for it to hover down to the surface. It has tools including 17 cameras, a laser to vaporize and study small pinpoint spots of rocks at a distance, and a drill to collect powdered rock samples. Found chemical and mineral evidence of past habitable environments on Mars.
  • Curiosity Rover: Part 2

    Curiosity Rover: Part 2
    It continues to explore the rock and record geological evidence from a time when Mars could have been home to microbial life.
  • MAVEN: Part 1

    MAVEN: Part 1
    Measure Mars’ atmosphere to understand it’s climate change.
    Carries eight science instruments that are taking measurements of the upper Martian atmosphere.
  • MAVEN: Part 2

    MAVEN: Part 2
    MAVEN is providing information on how and how fast atmospheric gases are being lost to space today, and inferring from those detailed studies what happened in the past. Studying how the Martian atmosphere was lost to space can reveal clues about the impact that change had on the Martian climate, geologic, and geochemical conditions over time, all of which are important in understanding whether Mars had an environment able to support life.
  • Mars 2020 Mission (Perseverance rover)

    Mars 2020 Mission (Perseverance rover)
    A mission to investigate key questions about potential life on Mars. This rover used a drill that collects core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside in a "cache" on the surface of Mars. Testing a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying other resources. Its mission was to improve landing techniques and characterizing weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.
  • ExoMars 2020 Rover: Part 1

    ExoMars 2020 Rover: Part 1
    Part of a series of missions designed to understand if life ever existed on Mars. NASA is providing a mass spectrometer and key electronic components for MOMA. A mass spectrometer is an instrument that identifies the amount and type of chemicals present in a sample.
  • ExoMars 2020 Rover: Part 2

    ExoMars 2020 Rover: Part 2
    NASA's participation in the 2020 ExoMars Rover mission includes providing critical elements to the premier astrobiology instrument on the rover, the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA). The NASA-provided MOMA mass spectrometer is designed to analyze the types and amounts of chemicals that make up organic and inorganic compounds found in rock and soil samples on Mars.