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?


1 Answer 1


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
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't Curiosity be also a Lander by that definition? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ @DiegoSánchez No, because Curiosity isn't a spacecraft. It was spacecargo. $\endgroup$
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ 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
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ @T.J.L. Pretty much like InSight, no? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 17:21

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