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.
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.
Since tomorrow's class is going to be on playing with raw images from the rovers and Cassini, I've been playing with recent raw images from the rovers and Cassini! I just thought I'd share a couple of the fun items I've been working with.
On Monday, November 16, 2009, Mars Exploration Rover Spirit will begin the much-anticipated, weeks-long process of extricating itself from a patch of powdery soil that stopped it in its tracks six months ago. It will begin by driving forward to the north, following its tracks out, even though its right front wheel is broken and immobilized.
The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been studying a lot of meteorites. That made me wonder, why study meteorites on Mars when we can study them in hand on Earth? How are Mars meteorites interesting?
The Mars Exploration Rover mission logged another textbook-rewriting month in October 2009 with more discoveries of geologic gems, new robot achievements balanced with equal amounts of challenges and frustrations overcome, topped off with special honors.
I wonder if this came from the same original body as Block Island, or if Meridiani is the kind of slowly deflating landscape that accumulates meteorites at its surface, like the ANSMET meteorite hunting spots in Antarctica?
From notable achievements and new discoveries to trials and tribulations and harbingers of hope, the Mars Exploration Rovers seemed to experience the gamut on the Red Planet this September, their 69th month on an expedition that originally set out back in 2004 for a three-month tour.