NASA may send humans to Mars in 2030, but it will not be an easy process. In fact, the agency's first lander arrived on the Red Planet 20 years ago. Today, the country's premiere space agency is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Mars Rover landing as part of the Pathfinder. The Pathfinder mission's rover and lander were responsible for some of the first images of the red planet we know today.

Mars Exploration with the rover

The rover landed on the red planet last July 4, 1997. The landing was considered historic due to the fact that it was US' first wheeled spacecraft to traverse the surface of said planet. Who would have thought that after 20 years, the agency is now working towards sending the first human colonizers to the planet?

Other nations have already sent rovers and orbiters to the region like the European Space Agency (ESA).

As for NASA, it has sent a total of eight robots designed to observe the surface. Today, five of them are still functioning and sending valuable information back to Earth.

Pathfinder mission

The Pathfinder mission remains incomplete, though. According to Michael Meyer, the lead scientist for the Exploration Program, part of the mission is to bridge the gap until sample return of rocks samples from the red planet could be possible. Also, the mission is expected to pave the way for sending humans into deep space.

Today, the agency is working with commercial spaceflight companies such as Boeing and SpaceX to develop transporters that are capable of sending humans beyond the Earth.

During the mission two decades ago, it took the rover eight months before arriving at its destination. For the future mission to Mars, NASA and the space engineers are hopeful that they will be able to cut the journey short.

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After the eight-month travel in deep space, the rover known as Sojourner rover rolled down from a ramp directly into the surface of the alien planet. It was powered by solar energy and was running on six wheels. During the early days of the rover's mission on the planet, it beamed back the first images of Mars that garnered about 200 million hits in the year 1997, back when the Internet is still very young.

Officials admitted that the lander and the rover were not designed to work long-term but they managed to survive for three months in the harsh environment of the red planet. Today, 20 years after the Pathfinder mission was launched, Curiosity Rover roams the surface of the red planet. The machine already managed to provide priceless information about the planet especially when it comes to investigating the former presence of water and the season changes on the planet.