In 2003, NASA sent two robots to a planet. What is the name of the planet?
What did the United States government want NASA to do?
How does Steve feel about the mission to mars?
The Mission to Mars
"I've been dreaming about this day for so long," said Steve, a space scientist. "There have been so many times along the way when it looked like we wouldn't ever get these machines built. We've been pouring our hearts and souls into them for years and now we're going to put them on top of two big rockets. In a few seconds they'll be gone."
Steve was talking about two robots like the one pictured here. The robots were built by NASA. NASA is a group that was started by the United States government to study and explore space.
In 2003, NASA sent the robots to the planet Mars. The robots had to travel across millions of miles of space to get there.
Scientists would love to be able to explore Mars themselves. They have many questions about the planet. Was there ever water on Mars? Have there ever been living things there?
Scientists could begin to answer these questions by touching the rocks and soil on Mars with their own fingers, but it would be very hard to send a scientist to Mars to do this.
Humans haven't gone farther into space than our own Moon, and many problems have to be solved before we can travel to a place like Mars.
The scientists at NASA planned to explore Mars with the help of the two robots. The robots were called rovers because they were built to rove across the surface of Mars. A nine-year-old girl won a national contest to name the robots. She called them Spirit and Opportunity.
The people on the Mars rover team would tell Spirit and Opportunity where to go and what to do. Then the team would study the information that the rovers sent back to them.
The team members faced many problems as they thought about trying to explore Mars in this way. Would the rovers make it all the way to Mars? Would they survive their landing on the planet? How would the team fix the rovers if they broke down? How could the team make sure that the rovers didn't get stuck in sand or drive off a cliff?