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Now, Mars awaits ‘Perseverance’

The rover will be the fifth to traverse the red planet’s surface. Here’s a look at its four predecessors

An illustration of ‘Perseverance’.
An illustration of ‘Perseverance’.

Earlier this month, Alexander Mather, a seventh grader from Virginia, was credited for coming up with the winning name for US space agency Nasa’s next Mars rover—Perseverance. When it lifts off in July, Perseverance will become part of a small yet elite list of rovers that have navigated the red planet’s surface. If all goes to plan, then Perseverance will jointhe Curiosity rover on the Martian surface next February. Here’s a look at the Martian rovers that preceded Perseverance.


Opportunity followed its twin rover, Spirit, to Mars in July 2003 and landed in January 2004. Designed for a mission duration of just 90 Martian days, Opportunity explored Mars for almost 15 years.

Mission duration: 2004-2018; distance covered: 45.16km


The only functioning rover on the planet has stayed true to its name. Though it landed in 2012, Curiosity is still functional and has even inspired the design for Perseverance, which will carry different scientific experiments.

Mission duration: 2012-ongoing; distance covered: 21.92km


Like Opportunity, Spirit exceeded its planned 90-day mission lifetime. The rover got stuck in a sand trap in 2009, which hampered its recharging process, before its mission finally ended in March 2010.

Mission duration: 2006-2010; distance covered: 7.7km


The first wheeled vehicle to operate outside the Earth-Moon system travelled to the red planet on the famous Mars Pathfinder mission of 1996. Sojourner covered a distance of just 330ft, roughly a 100m, before it lost communication.

Mission duration: ended in 1997; distance covered: 0.1km

—Nitin Sreedhar

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