The Mars Exploration Rovers quietly wrapped up 2009 this month: Spirit continued to valiantly spin its wheels in an attempt to get out of its embedded location on the west side of Home Plate in Gusev Crater; and Opportunity continued its investigation of Marquette Island, perhaps the oldest Martian rock it's found to date at Meridiani Planum.
I just got a press release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that made my heart sink; the extrication effort for Spirit is not going at all well. I did not want to keep sounding a knell of bad news. But once in a while, I do have to report bad news.
I've gotten this question about once a week since Spirit got stuck, but yesterday, two different readers asked the same question within an hour of each other, so I figured it was time for a blog entry.
My inbox was exploding this morning with messages about a tremendously cool animation released this morning by ESA's Mars Express team. It shows Phobos crossing Deimos, in what's known as a "mutual event."
The Mars Exploration Rovers managed to make history and uncover history in November and that put both Spirit and Opportunity in the planetary exploration spotlight during the 71st month of an overland expedition that was supposed to be a three-month tour.
I probably crammed too much into today's class: an hour-and-a-half whirlwind tour through the cameras on the rovers and Cassini, how to access their raw images on the Internet, and some basic processing that you can do with each of them.