NASA’s Pathfinder mission first landed on the surface of Mars around 25 years ago. NASA shared how it paved the way for future Mars missions.
NASA’s search for life on Mars has been in fast mode for the last 25 years! Back in 1997, NASA’s Pathfinder mission landed on the surface of Mars for the first time and it took some stunning images of the landscape of the planet. On day 2, they had sent instructions to Pathfinder to extend a ramp so that Sojourner, the robotic Mars rover it was carrying could roll down onto the planet’s surface. Mission’s flight director Jennifer Trosper and her team had their hands full just trying to drive the rover on Mars for the first time.
This rover weighed just 11 kilograms but after touching down on the surface of Mars and travelling 83 days, the tiny spacecraft proved that it is possible to explore Mars with a rover. Later, it also helped Trosper and the team to work on more complex rovers: Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity, and the most advanced Mars rover to date by NASA, Perseverance. Just like Pathfinder which took Sojourner to Mars, NASA’s Perseverance carried Ingenuity, a helicopter that showed that powered, controlled flight in Mars’ thin atmosphere is possible.
NASA says that with every latest mission to Mars, there is a new way of exploring the red planet and gaining a better understanding of how this Red planet once resembled our Earth, covered by rivers and lakes and an atmosphere, in short, all that is needed for life to sustain.
NASA’s future aspiration to find life on Mars
NASA first used Sojourner as a technological demonstration to test and evaluate its capabilities. On a similar path, Perseverance’s Ingenuity started off the same way, but now it’s an operational demonstration researching regions on Mars for a potential landing site for a future Mars Sample Return programme.
The campaign would bring samples gathered by Perseverance to Earth where they would be examined by advanced lab equipment looking for evidence of ancient microscopic life on the red planet. However, the campaign would also mark other significant events, such as the first rocket launch from a planet other than Earth. Additionally, it would aid efforts in the future to send people to Mars and bring them back to Earth.