Monday, October 25

Mars rovers: how many kilometers have Martian vehicles traveled? | Digital Trends Spanish

Seven ground rovers have made their way through Martian soil to unravel the mysteries of the red planet. After the first successful landing mission in 1971, didhow many kilometers have the rovers of Mars traveled?

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As of October 2021, only three of the seven vehicles remained operational: Curiosity and Perseverance, operated by the United States Space Administration (NASA), and Zhurong, in charge of the Chinese space agency.

The seven missions have traveled more than 180 kilometers (111 miles), passing through places such as the now emblematic Jezero crater, the Gale crater or the Utopia Planitia plain, among others. For now, the displacement record is held by Opportunity, which after 15 years ceased operations in 2019.

Active missions

Curiosity (NASA, United States) – 2012


Operator: NASA, United States
Landing date: August 6, 2012
Landing place:
Bradbury Landing, Gale Crater
Kilometers traveled: 26.38 kilometers (16.39 miles)

The Curiosity mission landed in August 2012 on the Aeolis Palus Plain in Gale Crater. Since then it has headed up the slope of Aeolis Mons, informally known as Mount Sharp, passing places like the old beach of Ogunquit or the watery alteration of Vera Rubin Ridge. The rover aims to conduct an investigation of the climate and geology of Mars, in addition to determining whether conditions favorable for microbial life ever existed and habitability studies for future human missions.

Where is Curiosity?

Perseverance – 2021

NASA, United States
Landing date: August 18, 2021
Landing place:
Jezero crater
Kilometers traveled: 2.61 kilometers (1.62 miles)

Based on the successful Curiosity design, the Perseverance rover landed on Mars in February 2021 inside the Jezero crater, which once housed a lake. The goal is to find evidence of ancient microbial life, collect rock and soil samples, and test oxygen production. Inside, it carried the Ingenuity, the first terrestrial device to have flown in the Martian atmosphere.

Where is Perseverance?

Zhurong – 2021


China National Space Administration (CNSA)
Landing date: May 14, 2021
Landing place:
Utopia Planitia
Kilometers traveled: 1.06 kilometers (0.66 miles)

The Zhurong rover was launched alongside the Tianwen-1 mission – which also included an orbiter – in China’s first bid to explore Mars individually. The vehicle landed in May 2021 in the Utopia Planitia region, an area that was chosen due to the odds of finding evidence as to whether there was ever an ancient ocean in the northern part of the planet.

Finished missions

In addition to the three current missions, another four have reached Martian soil, although with dissimilar successes: while the Soviet Mars 3 vehicle lost communication seconds after landing, the Opportunity rover holds the record for kilometers traveled.

Mars 3 (1971)

Rover mars 3

ex-Soviet Union
Landing date: December 2, 1971
Landing place: Ptolemaeus Crater (estimated)
Kilometers traveled: unknown

The Mars 3 rover, a rover weighing only 4.5 kilos, landed on Martian soil in December 1971, but Soviet authorities lost contact 14.5 seconds later, apparently due to a Martian dust storm. It is unknown if he managed to move after landing, although in November 2007 would have been caught by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) probe.

Sojourner (1997)

Operator: NASA, United States
Landing date: July 4, 1997
Landing place:
Ares Vallis, Chryse Planitia
Kilometers traveled: 100 meters (329 feet)

The American Sojourner rover was able to travel only 100 meters, which in July 1997 landed in the Ares Vallis channel in the Chryse Planitia region. The first ground vehicle to use wheels on another planet managed to send half a thousand images through the Pathfinder module until NASA lost all communication, 95 days after landing.

Spirit (2004-2011)

Rover spirit

Operator: NASA, United States
Landing date: January 4, 2004
Landing place:
Columbia Memorial Station (Gusev Crater)
Kilometers traveled: 7.73 kilometers (4.8 miles)

The Spirit rover arrived on Mars in January 2004 and was operational for seven years, far exceeding the useful life limit provided by NASA, thanks to the help of cleaning mechanisms that gave more energy to its solar panels. Their work allowed for a more extensive geological analysis of Martian rocks and surface features.

Spirit traveled 7.73 kilometers, more than the planned 600 meters, until in May 2009 its wheels were caught in the sand. Since then it was used as a stationary base, until NASA lost all communication in 2011.

Opportunity (2004-2019)


Operator: NASA, United States
Landing date: January 25, 2004
Landing place: Eagle, Meridiani Planum
Kilometers traveled: 45.1 kilometers (28.06 miles)

The Opportunity rover holds the record for operating on Mars, with 45.1 kilometers traveled and exceeding the original operating plan in more than 14 years, making it one of NASA’s most successful missions.

Among its milestones are the exploration of the Meridiani Planum plain, an area rich in hematite, an indicator of ancient hot springs or the past presence of liquid water. At the site, he identified the Heatshield Rock, Fig Tree Barberton, Allan Hills and Zhong Shan meteorites, as well as two years of exploration and study of Victoria Crater.

It had a system that allowed it to recharge its batteries using solar energy and hibernating during adverse events. However, it shipped its latest status on June 10, 2018, before a global dust storm blocked the sunlight needed to recharge its batteries. NASA ended its mission in February 2019.

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