Younger generations may remember the Pathfinder rover as that old dusty exploration robot that helped Matt Damon communicate with his Earthly friends in The Martian, but in fact this vehicle represents an important piece in the history of space exploration.
Now, to celebrate this iconic date, NASA has published, well in advance for some weeks, an emotional video where it collects, in just under three minutes, two complete decades of achievements in this infinite mission of exploration on the red planet :
It was a July 4, 1997, when the Mars Pathfinder first touched the ground on Mars, and released its first exploration robot, the Sojourner, to see what the rays were on that inhospitable planet.
With just six wheels and a size no bigger than the microwave in the kitchen of any home, this rover started a long and admirable dynasty that was to be relieved by the iconic Spirit, Oportunity and Curiosity.
Sojourner was active on the surface of Mars for more than 80 days; it analyzed the composition of about a dozen rocks and soil samples.
In 3 months, Sojourner drove ~ 100 meters (about 330 feet) around the landing site. Rover’s top speed was only 0.4 meters per minute, or ~1.2 ft/min. It weighed 11.5 kg (25.4 lbs) and was about the size of a microwave oven.
The trip to Mars took more than seven months, but since then the immense accumulation of discoveries on this planet has not stopped for a single day; From the collection of thousands of photographs of the planet, to the discovery of water on certain parts of its surface.
Mars remains a mysterious neighbor, but this tribute from NASA shows us that today we are more familiar than ever.