Exploring the Planets

Mars Rovers: Working on the Surface

Landers and rovers bring our point of view down to ground level. They have performed on-site experiments and given us crystal-clear views of the Martian landscape.

Mars Pathfinder


Pathfinder came equipped with an imager and meteorology sensors and delivered the first rover to the Mars.
Learn about Pathfinder >>


Setting Sun

Spirit was sent to the floor of a 140-kilometer (90-mile) wide crater named Gusev.
Learn about Spirit >>


A Bowl Full of Blueberries

Opportunity was sent to Meridiani Planum, a smooth area near the Martian equator.
Learn more about Opportunity >>


Gale Crater

Curiosity was sent to Gale Crater, which is 150 kilometers (about 90 miles) in diameter and contains a large central mound.
Learn more about Curiosity >>


Mars Exhibit Inside the "Exploring the Planets" Gallery

Lent by Cornell University
Students who participated in building the rover model include Paul Bartlett, Sam Vonderheide, Josh Freeh, Brett Lee, Jack Berkery,Patrick Spann, Phil Chu, Alex Iglacia, Miles Johnson, Heather Arneson, Vince Luh, Dave Young, Matt Siegler, Emily Dean, Nathalie Louge, Jessica Sherman, Kendal Paulus, Renee Hillaire, and Ardita Mysleimi
The project was supported by funds from the New York Space Grant

The Great Trek:

The Mars Exploration Rovers

To search for clues to the history of water on Mars, NASA sent twin "robot geologists" to the Red Planet. The two rovers landed in 2004 and continued to operate long past their original 90-day mission plan.

Science Instruments

  • Mast-mounted cameras—Positioned 1.5 meters (5 feet) high, they provide 360-degree stereoscopic views of the terrain as a human would see it.
  • Robotic arm—With its elbow and wrist, it moves like a human arm and places instruments directly against rocks and soils.
  • Microscopic camera—At the end of the robotic arm, it serves the same purpose as a geologist's handheld magnifying lens.
  • Rock Abrasion Too—Also on the robotic arm, the rover-geologist's "rock hammer" exposes the insides of rocks.
  • Mini-TES (Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer)—In the mast assembly, it determines the composition of rocks and soils by measuring the heat they emit.


RATted Rock
This rock was used in laboratory testing of the Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT), an instrument on the rover's robotic arm. The RAT grinds a small hole in a rock to obtain a fresh, unweathered, dust-free surface for analysis and imaging.

This shale from Ohio has some physical properties in common with Martian rocks analyzed by the Opportunity rover. The grinding on this sample took four hours to produce a hole about 5 millimeters (0.2 inch) deep.

RATted Cleveland Shale lent by Honeybee Robotics