Red Planet Rodeo

Mars Perseverance rover wouldn't exist without these 6 groundbreaking missions — look

3 ... 2 ... 1 ... Liftoff!

Originally Published: 
NASA via Giphy

Perseverance, NASA’s rover that landed on Mars in February, is looking for signs of ancient microbial life and determining if the Red Planet is habitable for humans.

But its ambitious mission wouldn’t be doable without the rovers, landers, and orbiters that came before it.

Here are 6 essential Mars missions that made Perseverance possible.
NASA via Giphy
6. Mariner 4

The 1964 spacecraft was the first to capture photos of the Red Planet up close.

NASA/JPL via Wikimedia Commons

This was one of the first images of the view from Mariner’s fly-by of Mars.

5. Mariner 9

The spacecraft was the first to orbit another planet. It reached Mars in 1971.


It captured more photos of the Martian surface, many of which led scientists to conclude that the planet might have once had water.

4. Mars 3

Later that year, a Soviet spacecraft made a soft landing on Mars for the first time in history.


The Mars 3 probe also included a rover named Prop-M. Unfortunately, the lander lasted less than two minutes on the surface of Mars, but showed that a soft landing was possible.

3. Viking 1 & 2

In 1975, NASA’s Viking spacecraft achieved the first successful U.S. landings on Mars.


Two separate landers made it to the surface of the planet, where they took photos, collected samples, and conducted the first experiments on Mars to look for alien life.

2. Pathfinder

In 1997, NASA landed on Mars once again — this time bringing its first rover.


Called Sojourner, the rover was only active for a few months, when it ultimately lost contact with its control station in October 1997. The lessons learned from Sojourner have been incorporated into subsequent Mars rovers.

1. Curiosity

This rover launched in 2011, and has been active on the planet ever since.


The rover’s successful architecture led NASA to build Perseverance with roughly the same design.


The two rovers might not find big green aliens, but the discoveries they make about the past habitability of Mars could alter our view of the Red Planet.

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