General Question

Roby's avatar

Didn't NASA already put a landrover on Mars a couple time before the latest one?

Asked by Roby (2939points) August 8th, 2012

I watched the celebrating by the scientist on the news but wondered why they were so exuberant as they did this before, Did they not?

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11 Answers

AshlynM's avatar

Yes, according to Wikipedia, there have been 4 successful rovers on Mars.
The reason they were so excited was because they had pulled off some daring and never before attempted maneuvers on the rover.

Bellatrix's avatar

Wheelies and doughnuts on Mars! Worth celebrating.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The other Rovers were much smaller lighter and had limited capability. They were 10.8 kg, 185 kg (twice). The Mars Science Lab is 899 kg, can travel longer distances and has many more experiments and tools on board. Watch the video at the end of this 7 minutes of terror

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

This image of rover mockups gathered together will give you a good idea just how much larger the new rover, Curiosity, is compared to Spirit and Opportunity (both landed in 2004) and Sojourner (landed in 1997). The attachment on the end of Curiosity’s arm is almost as big as the entire body of Sojourner.

Spirit got trapped in sandy soil in January of 2010 and radio contact with it was lost in March of 2010. Opportunity is still going.

Experience shows that what is most likely to disable a perfectly-functioning rover on Mars is dust covering the solar panels limiting the available power and ability to keep the internals warmer than the very cold ambient temperature. So Curiosity packs a radiothermal generator that uses the heat generated by the natural radioactive decay of plutonium for power and temperature regulation (like the Voyager and Cassini spacecraft did).

Sending spacecraft to Mars and especially landing things intact there is always a notable accomplishment. Out of 42 past missions, only 20 have succeeded.

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gambitking's avatar

Previous rovers were just tossed on the surface with a parachute to soften the landing. The much heavier curiosity rover was deployed to a precise spot and lowered to the planet using a sky crane. Pretty big difference.

Mariah's avatar

Yes, but this one has more capabilities than the others. This one also landed in a way they have never tried before, so there was a lot of uncertainty about whether it would land safely.

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