Facts about Sojourner
The Sojourner rover is an exploratory robot which landed on Mars on July 4, 1997, and spent weeks exploring the planet’s surface.
Sojourner was part of NASA’s Mars Pathfinder mission, dedicated to exploring the surface of Mars. (The rover was officially named “Sojourner Truth,” for the famous American abolitionist, after a student competition.) As planned, the solar-powered rover rolled around the planet’s surface taking scientific readings of various bits of rock and soil. NASA press releases celebrating (and humanizing) the plucky traveler made Sojourner a closely-watched star of the early Internet era.
Sojourner remained active for just a few months, until September 1997. As anticipated, it slowly ran out of power and its communications with Earth were finally cut off. Sojourner remains, dormant, on the surface of Mars.
According to a 1995 NASA press release, “Valerie Ambroise, 12, of Bridgeport, CT, submitted the winning essay about Sojourner Truth, an African-American reformist who lived during the Civil War era… The name Sojourner was selected because it means ‘traveler’… The second place prize winner was Deepti Rohatgi, 18, of Rockville, MD, who proposed naming the rover after Marie Curie, a Polish-born chemist who won the Nobel Prize in 1911 for her discovery of the elements radium and polonium. The third place prize went to Adam Sheedy, 16, of Round Rock, TX, who chose the late astronaut Judith Resnik as his namesake for the new rover.”