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Mars Rover Designed by Rensselaer Students

Space Legacy

In 1966, Rensselaer and NASA began a decade-long partnership to develop novel hardware for an unmanned mission to Mars. The project involved hundreds of students, as well as a number of faculty, who designed and developed an unmanned Martian Roving Vehicle to carry an instrument package, a soil and atmosphere testing apparatus, and communications equipment across the Martian terrain to remote areas from the landing site.

The rover was never intended to go to Mars, but rather was created as a prototype to test out various concepts and materials. According to a memo written by Professor George Sandor in 1971, the second objective was to “foster engineering-design education by providing challenging real problems for our faculty and students to work on.”

Fast forward to 2004, when twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on the red planet, thanks to the work of more than a dozen Rensselaer graduates.

Today, the Rensselaer community is continuing to pioneer research involving space.


Did you know? This prototype was featured on Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, a Carl Sagan documentary series released in 1980. You can find it at minute 47 in this episode!