|Exploring The Planets
Tools Of Exploration
Landed spacecraft can make detailed observations of a planet's surface. However, these observations are restricted to a small area. To obtain coverage over a wider area, spacecraft can carry robots that are able to rove over the surface. Manned missions or robotic rovers provide not only mobility but also the capability to do complex tasks and make intelligent and selective observations.
Lunokhod || Apollo || Sojourner || Planetary Rovers Under Development
|Two Soviet mobile vehicles, the Lunokhods, have landed on the Moon, one in November 1970 and the other in January, 1973. The Lunokhods were remotely controlled roving vehicles that carried television cameras and instruments to measure the physical and chemical properties of the lunar soil.|
|The six Apollo lunar landing missions demonstrated
the value of manned exploration of planetary surfaces. The astronauts
were able to set up scientific instruments, choose the most interesting
samples for collection, and study the geology of the lunar surface.
© Smithsonian Institution photo
Lunar Roving Vehicle
on display in Apollo To The Moon (gallery 210) in the National Air and Space Museum.
|The lunar roving vehicle (used on Apollo 15, 16, and 17) increased the range an astronaut could travel. The Apollo 11 astronauts on foot covered only .25 kilometers (.16 miles); with the rover, Apollo 17 astronauts traveled more than 36 kilometers (22 miles).|
Mars Rover - Sojourner
All photos courtesy NASA/JPL
A major goal of the space program has been to place a remotely controlled rover on the surface of Mars. This goal finally became a reality when the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft landed on Mars on July 4, 1997 and deployed the first successful Mars rover - named "Sojourner" - onto the surface. The primary goal of the mission was to test the rover capabilities on the surface in order to plan future robotic missions. The rover was also equipped with cameras and instruments such as the Alpha Proton X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) to survey the mineral composition of rocks and overall geology of the Martian surface. The results are compared with previous measurements gathered by the Viking landers in the 1970s.
For more information on Sojourner, Mars Pathfinder, and mission results, see:
Mars Rovers - 2003
Full-scale model of MER rover in the Exploring the Planets gallery Model courtesy of Cornell University
|In 2003, two large rovers called Spirit and Opportunity were launched to Mars to explore the Martian surface in much the same way that the Mars Pathfinder Sojourner rover did in 1997. However, these rovers have greater maneuverability and range, traveling up to 100 meters (about 110 yards) across the surface in a Martian day. Each rover carries instruments designed to search for evidence of liquid water that may have been present in the planet's past. Spirit's mission is to explore Gusev Crater which may hold ancient lake deposits, and Opportunity's site is Meridiani Planum which contains a large deposit of hematite, an iron mineral. In March 2004, Opportunity discovered a rock with cross-bedding, a sedimentary structure formed by flowing water. This, combined with chemical data, indicates that the rock formed in a shallow, salty body of surface water.
For more information visit the JPL website
Tools of Exploration
Earth-based Observations || Airborne and Orbital Telescopes || Probes and Fly-by Spacecraft
Orbiters || Landers || Rovers || Sample Return
©2002 National Air and Space Museum