Mars rover

Opportunity and Spirit

  • Simulation of the rover landing on Mars. This is the rover ‘Spirit’.

  • Custom-made parachutes helped the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity touch down safely on the Red Planet.
  • Terrain can be a problem and the Spirit rover became hopelessly stuck in soft Martian sand in 2009


Mars rover Curiosity

Curiosity (2011)
Curiosity rover – a robotic car-sized Mars rover. It is currently exploring Gale Crater, which is near the equator of Mars. The rover is a nuclear-powered robot that is part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). The MSL mission has four main scientific goals: study Martian climate and geology, search for water, and find out whether Mars could have ever supported life. Curiosity carries the most advanced scientific equipment ever used on the surface of Mars.

  • The Mars Curiosity Rover (video 3:07) – get an inside look into NASA’s mission to Mars. LeVar takes you on a guided journey to NASA JPL in Pasadena, California to take a closer look at Curiosity and his twin sister, Maggie.
  • Curiosity landing – In its search for life beyond Earth, NASA employs a “sky crane” maneuver to land the Curiosity rover on Mars.

News, updates

What’s the problem?
Following the visits to Mars by three other robots, NASA designed Curiosity to be able to move farther and faster. There were a lot of design decisions that had to be made. NASA engineers made some very special “dirt” similar to what is on Mars for testing and improving the design of Curiosity, so it would be more maneuverable on Mars.

  • Ask – What had NASA engineers learned about the surface of Mars from earlier rover landings and movement? What problems did Spirit have with the soft sand?
  • Imagine – Are there places on earth with surface material similar to the surface material on Mars? What are some of the properties of Martian soil? Would it be possible to “engineer” some dirt that more closely resembled the Martian soil?
  • Plan, Create
  • Improve

Engineering ideas

  • nuclear-power

Do it
Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • Design a Wind-Up Mars Rover – Build a Mars rover that can travel at least 2 feet from its starting point using elastic energy.
  • Design a Parachute – Create a parachute both strong and light enough to safely slow the rovers in their descent toward Mars.