Defying all the odds, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) are wrapping up 2006 in new locations and roving into their fourth Earth year of exploring the Red Planet. Spirit is slated to celebrate the milestone on January 3, 2007 Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), with Opportunity marking the milestone just 3 weeks later, on January 24, 2007.
The Mars Exploration Rovers managed to log another couple of significant milestones this month even as they worked in place, on autopilot, for the last two weeks during superior conjunction, the period that occurs every 2 years when Earth and Mars orbit into positions on opposite sides of the Sun, obscured from each other. With the conjunction now over, the rovers are slated to be back in command operation by tomorrow, All Hallow's Eve or, more popularly, Halloween.
The Mars Exploration Rovers are reaching new milestones and gaining newfound energy as winter slowly begins to pass on the Red Planet. Once again, Opportunity commanded the spotlight as it pulled up to the rim of the massive Victoria crater this week and began returning images that may redefine the word spellbinding. Twin sister, Spirit, meanwhile, is resigned to stay in its northward-tilted position for another month looking at the same scenery in order to collect the maximum energy supply for its solar panels.
The Mars Exploration Rovers, which bounced to landings in January 2004 with 90-day warranties, have survived their second winter solstice on the Red Planet and are still going strong more than two and a half years after landing.
The Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) are working right through the depths of the winter at their respective locations in Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum. Although the twin robot field geologists are putting in short days and taking quality time to recharge, they still have team members marveling over their latest Martian finds.
The Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) are wheel deep in winter, and still faring well, working hard, and sending home interesting new finds despite the below freezing Martian temperatures. The next month or so will bring the season's coldest temperatures to the rover's present habitats, but so far, no one on the team is losing any sleep over whether or not they'll make it through, because these rovers just keep going and going . . .
The Mars Exploration Rovers are now well into their second Martian winter and, all things considered, both Spirit and Opportunity are faring pretty well for being, essentially, aging Baby Boomers on bitter cold, dusty alien planet some 50 million miles away from home.