Mars Rovers: Two decades of landing of Spirit and Opportunity on the surface of Red Planet

Two decades ago, two Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars on 3rd and 24th January 2004, respectively to look for evidence that water once flowed on the surface of the Red Planet. Designed to last just 3 months, both the rovers travelled and operated on the Mars surface for much longer than the expected duration for years (Spirit operated for over six years while Opportunity remained active for over 14 years). Mars Exploration Programme of NASA has four ‘Science Goals’- to determine if Mars Ever Supported Life, to understand climate and geology of Mars and to prepare for human planetary missions to Mars

The twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity, Mars found evidence that long ago Mars was wetter and conditions at Mars could have supported microbial life and contributed to understanding geology and climate of Mars. They changed our knowledge of Mars. Their experiences and their yeoman’s contributions to Mars science paved way for future rovers Curiosity and Perseverance. 

Six Mars rovers have successfully landed and travelled/operated on Martian surface to date. Curiosity and Perseverance which landed on Martian surface in 2012 and 2021 respectively are currently active and operational and making contributions to Mars science. 

Table: Mars rovers that successfully landed on Martian surface 

1. Sojourner (NASA)  landed on Mars on 4th July 1997; communication lost on 27th September 1997.  
2. Spirit (NASA) landed on Mars on 3rd January 2004; communication lost on 22nd March 2010.  
3. Opportunity (NASA) landed on Mars on 24th January 2004; communication lost on 10th June 2018.  
4. Curiosity (NASA) landed on Mars on 6th August 2012 – Active 
5. Perseverance (NASA & ESA) landed on Mars on landed on 18th February 2021- Active 
6. Zhurong (CNSA, China)  landed on Mars on 14th May 2021; deactivated on 20th May 2022.  



  1. NASA JPL. News- 20 Years After Landing: How NASA’s Twin Rovers Changed Mars Science. Posted 17 January 2023. Available at 
  1. NASA. Mars Exploration Rovers. Available at 


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