Pathfinder landed on the surface of Mars in 1997. The craft, launched on December 5, 1996, traveled for 211 days and 309 million miles to reach the surface of Mars. A small rover named Sojourner (named after Sojourner Truth) traveled about the surface and analyzed rocks and the surface of the planet. The two vehicles (both significantly outliving scientific estimates) sent back 2.3 billion bits of data before transmissions stopped on September 27, 1997. Children can view some of the images of Mars at: Pathfinder.
Andy Green set a new land speed record and broke the sound barrier on land in 1997 in ThrustSSC. Traveling at 763.035 miles per hour (Mach 1.016), he broke the land record 50 years and one day after Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in an airplane.
Cassini-Huygens spacecraft was launched in 1997. The unmanned NASA craft reached Saturn, its goal, in 2004. Huygens broke away from Cassini and landed on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, on January 14, 2005. Children could learn more at: Cassini-Huygens.
Shenzhou 5 was launched from China in 2003. China’s first successful manned space venture sent Yang Liwei into earth orbit. He orbited earth 14 times and spent over 21 hours in space.