I am confused in difference between rover and pathfinder and lander

I have often read/heard all these three terms when searching/studying about Mars

Although all 3 of these are parts of space craft but what is the actual difference between all 3 of these?


NASA has helpfully provided a list of spacecraft classifications which covers these terms (and more.)

Rover: a vehicle. There have been 4 rovers on Mars: Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity.

Lander: any spacecraft that can land safely.

Lander spacecraft are designed to reach the surface of a planet and survive long enough to telemeter data back to Earth.

Some landers are stationary (like the Vikings and InSight), other landers carry a rover (like Spirit and Opportunity). Curiosity is a rover, its spacecraft didn't include a lander: the rover was brought to the spacecraft by a descent stage (sky crane) which dropped the rover, then crashed.

Pathfinder: the name of the first Mars mission that included a rover (Sojourner). You'll see each rover mission being referred to by two names. The Mars Science Laboratory mission includes the Curiosity rover. The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission included Spirit, Opportunity and their landers.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Mars Pathfinder was the name of the mission, which included both lander and rover components. Sojourner was the name of the rover that landed with it. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Sep 26 '19 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't Curiosity be also a Lander by that definition? $\endgroup$ Sep 26 '19 at 13:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @DiegoSánchez No, because Curiosity isn't a spacecraft. It was spacecargo. $\endgroup$
    – T.J.L.
    Sep 26 '19 at 13:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ fixed Pathfinder, thanks. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Sep 26 '19 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ these rovers are also on mars, even though they may not have been successfully deployed. They're so cute, we shouldn't forget them! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Sep 26 '19 at 15:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.