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Mars Science

Meet the Very First Rover To Land On Mars 59

toygeek writes "Before Curiosity, before Opportunity, before Spirit, and before Sojourner, the very first robot to land on Mars was this little guy, way back in December of 1971. Called PrOP-M, the rover was part of the Soviet Union's Mars-3 mission, which had the potential to deploy the first ever mobile scientific instruments onto the Martian surface. Article also contains Russian video on early rovers."
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Meet the Very First Rover To Land On Mars

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  • Interesting; seems to have died in a dust storm. Did PrOP-M's sacrifice save the later landers from the same fate?
    • Re:Dust storm? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @02:46AM (#41162679) Journal

      seems to have died in a dust storm. Did PrOP-M's sacrifice save the later landers from the same fate?

      The landers were not designed to "park" in orbit and had to land on a fixed schedule. Even if the dust storm was detected, nothing could be done. (US Mariner 9 orbiter arrived around the same time and had to wait months for that storm to clear before the surface was visible.)

      Speculation is that once landed, dust storms tugged at the still-attached parachutes and yanked the Soviet landers over. This would explain the very short communication spans after landing.

      Another speculation at the time was that they sank into quick-sand or quick-dust of some sort. Viking took that theory in hand and was designed to send back an image as soon as possible so that we could at least have one look. Viking's first image was of one of its footpads so if it was sinking, scientists could see the soil level above it in the (potentially final) image.

      Vikings also had the ability to park in orbit so that the orbiters could check things out first. Whether this was done to avoid the fate of the Soviet landers or not, I can't say.

      It paid off in that the original Viking 1 landing spot was discovered to be too risky using the orbiters' improved cameras. The planned Bicentennial (7/4/1976) landing was postponed because of it as a smoother spot was sought.

  • by Megahard ( 1053072 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @01:41AM (#41162281)
    Like the Mars Climate Orbiter was among the first weather stations to reach the surface of Mars.
    • I would say that:
      1. It's not a rover if it never moved, and
      2. It was never deployed, so technically it was never on the surface of mars itself.

      The Mars-3 probe did at least enough to count.

  • Probe (Score:2, Informative)

    by mirix ( 1649853 )

    Mars 3 was a probe, not a rover.

    Soviets definitely got their probe on before the west, and probed repeatedly, both Mars and Venus.

    The probes on Venus had really short lives, due to the inhospitable conditions.. lot of cash for a little bit of observations. (I think the longest living one made two hours? forget now).

    • Aren't they all (sattelites too) probes? I thought the difference was lander vs rover (vs orbiter).

      • Oh and now I RTFA and it turns out Mars-3 was actually all 3: an orbiter for communication, a stationary lander, and a tiny little rover that was tethered to the lander.

        • by mirix ( 1649853 )

          Yeah, I think rover should be independent - this is more of a movable sensor for the probe really, as opposed to some sort of autonomous rover... It doesn't need to carry it's own power source, or communications, etc.

          lunokhod [wikipedia.org] series was a real rover though, first, no less. I guess the progenitor of all of them.

          There's a documentary called 'tank on the moon' about the development of them. It shows footage of them trying various mechanisms - some including this 'walker' style - but ultimately they went for wh

          • Yeah, I think rover should be independent - this is more of a movable sensor for the probe really, as opposed to some sort of autonomous rover... It doesn't need to carry it's own power source, or communications, etc.

            And I don't see how using an external power source nullifies the principle aspect of a rover: That it roves.

            The Sojourner rover never went more than 12m away from the lander. If the only way to accomplish the exact same mission was by having the lander provide power through a tether, then it wouldn't have counted? What if it received the power wirelessly?

            Of course Sojourner wasn't autonomous anyway because it required the lander for communicating with earth. Which if autonomous communications are a requi

    • by AC-x ( 735297 )

      Mars 3 was the complete mission, PrOP-M was the rover to be deployed by the lander (ala Pathfinder)

      • In the same way that Mars Science Laboratory is the entire mission, and Curiosity is the rover.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Friends, Podmates, and fellow Citizens, lend me your auditory input channels: Our operatives on the blue world share with you the following excerpt from TFA [ieee.org]:

    "Or there's always the angry Martians hypothesis."

    Fear not, for the battle continues, but know, o ye Citizens, how far we have fallen. Back in my day, when I was but a podling barely capable of any form of speech, let alone speaking on behalf of my fellow podmates, "twenty seconds to comply" wasn't just a good idea, it was the law.

    When a retired new

  • The early Russian space program treated Mars as more of a target than a destination. They were a volume business and yes they aimed a probe at Mars but there was a low probability of it surviving. I'm old enough to remember the probe impacting. I thought it was a testament to how hard it was to land a probe on Mars. The truth is they were more obsessed with the attempt than the success. You've got to remember that here we are 40 years later and the Russians have yet to land a man on the Moon. They've had lo
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2012 @02:59AM (#41162771)

      You've got to remember that here we are 40 years later and the Russians have yet to land a man on the Moon.

      You make it sound as though it has been a Russian initiative for 50 years to land a cosmonaut on the Moon, but it only was so from 1961-1974. After 74, there was no such initiative for a manned lunar landing, so here we are 40 years later and for the last 38 of them the Russian's haven't been trying. You'd be just as correct to say that for the last 40 years the US had been unable to land a man on the Moon. So let's not overplay Russian space failures and US successes... (after all, the US has killed far more astronauts with its program than the Russians). Instead let's celebrate the successful cooperation the US and Russians have had in space.

  • Great documentory on the Russian initiatives for remote operated vehicles - very clever stuff !
  • They played music on Mars today. With no one there to hear it, was there any sound?
    • No they didn't. They beamed an audio file down to the rover, which then sent it back, in the same way they sent NASA Administrator Bolden's message. There are no speakers, and sadly no microphone on Curiosity. This was purely a PR stunt and dick-waving move for Bolden.

      • by Alioth ( 221270 )

        You don't need speakers, you could play the sound on the motors powering the rover's wheels :-)

    • Is that what that noise was? It sounded like a leper who hadn't had a drink in a while as they were staked to the ground in Death Valley.

      My cat sounds better than whatever that "music" was.

  • With a code name like Prop M, it is no wonder people thought the moon landings happened in a Hollywood stage somewhere. I mean, Prop is what they call the set items used to give realistic effects to the stage and for helping tell stories, and of course M just seems like a catalog number.

    Seriously, if i heard of a mars lander being called a prop, I might suspect some of the extremely extraordinary accomplishments too.

  • When I say that Mars rovers are things that could have been done with Cold War technologies, I pass for a boring unenthusiastic guy. But the thing is, we have been there, we have done that. When will we send an autonomous robot on Mars? Or one that can build stuff there? Or one that can dig deep enough to get to the water that we know [blogspot.com] is there, thanks to a high-tech spectrometer that scanned underground resources from orbit. Now that's a new piece of impressive tech that no one talks about.

    How about tryi
    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      Why would anyone want to electrolyse water on Mars? Do you expect it to electrolyse in any other fashion than here on Earth, except costing 8 orders of magnitude more? Water is per se useless for a robotic mission, if we know it's there from orbiter imagery you don't need to send a rover to confirm, duh. The only useful thing would be to sample it and see if there are any microorganisms there. No electrolysis involved. Test filtering?! You can test filtering it here on Earth just fine.

      As for cold war techno

  • The PROP-M carrier vehicle made it down- but failed after 20
    seconds. If the rover even deployed, we never knew it, and
    we definitely never actually got data back.

  • I was actually hoping to find out that there had been a "manned" mission to mars using a dog, complete with cute puppy pictures. God help me... social media has infected my brain.
  • Wow, I just want to say, this is the first OP in a while that is actually news to me! Great post! Especially, I prior had no idea that NSSDC exists! Cool beans!

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.