This is what an artist thinks one of the MER rovers will look like on Mars.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy NASA/JPL
Mars Exploration Rovers
Exploration Rovers are robot vehicles that are exploring the surface of
Mars. The rovers have six-wheels and are powered
by solar panels. The rovers are "geologists" that are looking at rocks and soil
on Mars. They are trying to find rocks and minerals that might have formed in
The rovers are about the size of a golf cart. Each vehicle has a mass of 170
kilograms. Each weighs 375 pounds on Earth. Since the gravity on Mars is weaker,
each rover weighs just 140 pounds on Mars.
The rovers aren't very fast. Their top speed is five centimeters (2 inches)
per second! They can travel up to 40 meters (130 feet) each Martian day. They
probably will not go that far on most days. Instead, they will probably stop
pretty often to look around and do tests on rocks. Engineers think the rovers
keep on working for about 90 Martian days. They may travel as far as one
kilometer (0.6 miles) during that time.
Each rover has nine cameras! Six of the cameras help the robot steer and keep
it from running into rocks or falling into craters. One is a microscope camera
that takes close-up views of rocks. Two cameras are on top of a pole that is
about as tall as a person. They are giving us views of Mars that are like what
we would see if we were standing on Mars!
Each rover has a robot arm. The arm has instruments on it that it uses to examine
rocks and soil. Two of those
instruments tell us about the kinds of minerals and elements that are in the
soil and rocks. The arm has a scraper, called a RAT (Rock Abrasion Tool), which
it uses to scrape off the outer surface layer of rocks. After the rock's surface
has been scraped clean, the other instruments can look at "fresh"
material on the inside of the rock. The microscope camera is also on the arm.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes fun classroom activities
for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!
You might also be interested in:
Two robot rovers landed on Mars in January 2004. The first robot is named Spirit. Spirit landed inside a big crater called Gusev Crater. Gusev Crater may have been filled with water long ago. It may have...more
Two robot rovers landed on Mars in January 2004. They are called the Mars Exploration Rover mission. One rover is named Spirit. The other is called Opportunity. Opportunity landed at a place called Meridiani...more
Gusev Crater is an impact crater on Mars that looks as though a lake may have once filled it in the distant past. One of the two Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) will explore Gusev Crater beginning in January...more
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is really neat! It was first launched in 1990, but scientists started building it in the 1970's! We have found all kinds of objects like stars, nebulae and galaxies. The...more
Apollo 11 was the first mission that landed a person on the moon. On July 16, 1969, the U. S. rocket Saturn 5 was launched carrying the lunar landing module Eagle. The Eagle was released and it reached...more
Apollo 12 was launched on Nov. 14, 1969 and arrived at the Moon three days later. Astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean descended to its surface, while Richard Gordon remained in lunar orbit aboard the...more
Apollo 15 marked the start of a new series of missions from the Apollo space program, each capable of exploring more lunar terrain than ever before. Launched on July 26, 1971, Apollo 15 reached the Moon...more