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Jordan Desai
Professor Mayes
Planetary Science 200

23 September 2015
Comparing Three Mars Rovers

Mars is not easy to reach or explore. Nearly two-thirds of all missions have failed. However, in recent years, the United States has had more success landing rovers. Of recent missions, two rovers essentially crash-landed in a cocoon of airbags and one soft-landed.
The first lander, Sojourner, part of the Mars pathfinder mission, was about the size of a milk crate and weigh 33 pounds. It landed using airbags on July 4, 1997, and stayed active 10 times longer than scheduled.
The next missions were the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which were launched a few weeks apart and landed on opposite sides of the planet in the summer of 2003, also using airbag technology (NASA 1). They both were the size of golf carts and outlasted their scheduled missions many times over.
Curiosity landed in August 2012 and is the largest and most ambitious rover. The size and mass of a Mini Cooper, it survived a complex soft landing (Gibson 289). Curiosity also supports the most complex science, containing drills, lasers, and a small analytical laboratory.
Curiosity can communicate with Earth in three ways. First, Curiosity can engage in direct communication from the rover to Earth’s Deep Space Network. Second, Curiosity can use a fast relay via the orbiting Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Finally, Curiosity can utilize a slow relay to communicate via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The scientific missions have focused on whether Mars once harbored flowing water. Specifically, the science studies Martian geology to determine how the rocks and soils formed (Jones 46-47). Based on how they form on Earth, many Martian discoveries appear to have followed a similar path, such as a long exposure to water or geology formed by intense heat and water.
NASA has engaged in a few popular public relations efforts with the rover missions One has been to invite students to name its rovers by...


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