Mars landing: when did NASA first land on the Red Planet and how many rovers like Perseverance are on its surface?

Perseverance became the latest NASA rover to be sent to Mars when it touched down after a seven-month journey from Earth

By Matt Brooks
Friday, 19th February 2021, 11:59 am

Perseverance became the latest NASA rover to be sent to Mars when it touched down after a seven-month journey from Earth.

The rover announced its arrival in the Jezero Crater on the Red Planet’s surface in a Twitter post dated 9.42pm on 18 February 2021.

Images are already being sent back from the planet, as it begins to explore the surface and attempts to bring rock samples back to Earth.

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When was the first Mars landing and how many rovers are on the surface of the Red Planet? (Pic: Shutterstock)

It is hoped Perseverance’s exploration will further our understanding of the planet, which has been the subject of many missions over the years.

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Watch the moment Nasa's Perseverance rover landed on Mars and sent back its firs...

When was the first Mars landing?

Humanity has made many attempts to land on the surface of Mars over the years, which began with the Soviet Union’s Mars probes in the 1960s.

A photograph taken by the Mars Pathfinder Lander shows two large hills in the distance and a portion of the Lander's airbags. Its rover Sojourner was also deployed onto the surface. (Pic: Getty Images)

The country racked up more failed missions than successful ones but in 1971 its Mars 3 lander actually reached the surface of the Red Planet.

However, its stay didn’t last long, as 90 seconds after landing it began transmitting to the Mars 3 orbiter, only for the transmission to cut out after 15 seconds.

It is thought the cause of the failure was related to an extremely powerful dust storm taking place at the time of the probe’s landing. The probe contained a rover but was never used.

When was the first rover used on Mars?

It wasn’t until 1975 when NASA sent Viking 1 and Viking 2 to Mars that a transmitted signal was sent from the surface of Mars back to Earth.

Viking 1 gave the world the first panoramic view of the surface of Mars, which showed the red soil and rocks now synonymous with the planet.

In 1996, NASA’s Pathfinder mission saw more than 16,000 images of the planet and eight million measurements taken and sent back to Earth.

The Pathfinder carried with it Sojourner, which became the first wheeled vehicle to be used on another planet, gathering 2.3 billion pieces of data and a further 17,000 images.

How many Mars landings have there been?

Since Mars 3’s first landing on Mars, there have been many more pieces of machinery arrive on the Red Planet’s surface over the past 50 years - all of which have been uncrewed.

Of the 15 landing attempts, nine have been successful. NASA hasn’t had a failed landing since 1999, with its Mars Polar Lander.

As well as Perseverance, NASA has landed Viking 1 and Viking 2, Pathfinder, Phoenix, Opportunity, InSight, Curiosity and Spirit on Mars.

How many rovers are on Mars?

Perseverance is the latest rover to land on Mars and will join Curiosity, launched in 2011, as the second active rover on the planet’s surface.

In total, there have been five successful robotically operated Mars rovers, all managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: Sojourner, Opportunity, Spirit, Curiosity, and Perseverance.

A rover is classed as a motor vehicle that can travel across the surface of the planet upon arrival, it is mobile where as a lander is typically fixed in one spot.