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I am totally hooked on Scott Maxwell's new Mars Exploration Rover blog

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/01/06 11:57 CST

Scott Maxwell is one of those many guys (and gals) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who rarely gets his name in the news but who is absolutely indispensable to the success of a space mission. I don't know what his official title is, but whatever it is, it's not as good as the colloquial name given to his position: Rover Driver.

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Five Years of Spirit on Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/01/02 10:15 CST

On January 3, 2004, the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit landed on Mars, and I was with the science team at JPL when it happened! I can't believe it's been five years since the successful landing.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: As Spirit and Opportunity Rove On, We Look Back on 2008

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/12/31 11:00 CST

As 2008 fades to the pages of history, Spirit and Opportunity are closing in on the end of their fifth year of exploration on the Red Planet and moving the Mars Exploration Rover mission forward into a new year of bold scientific objectives.

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Another longevity milestone for Spirit and Opportunity

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/12/29 05:03 CST

We're getting close to the fifth anniversary of the landings of Spirit and Opportunity, but was we approach that milestone, we're passing another. I've been told that as of yesterday, Spirit and Opportunity have operated on Mars for a combined length of time that is longer than the combined number of sols that the twin Viking landers operated.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Recuperates from Dust Storm, Opportunity Hits on Santorini

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/11/30 11:00 CST

The Mars Exploration Rovers are nearing the end of their fifth year of exploring the Red Planet in dramatically different ways.

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Solar conjunction: Holidays for Mars missions, and an Opportunity update

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/11/21 01:09 CST

The period of Mars solar conjunction has just begun, which means that a host of scientists and engineers whose day jobs entail interaction with the five active Mars spacecraft are getting a five-week break from the daily grind of operations.

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Spirit's still there

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/11/13 05:14 CST

I am greatly relieved to report that Spirit did talk to Earth as ordered today, indicating that the rover's power situation did not get so bad that a "low power fault" was triggered. The rover's still following instructions, and is still with us, though the power situation is still critical.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Phones Home After Life-Threatening Dust Storm

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/11/13 11:00 CST

After taking a "direct hit" from one of Mars' notorious dust storms last weekend, Spirit phoned home today at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, exactly like its ground team had asked it to do and members of the rover team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) cheered. "She's talking!"

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High dust levels are making life tough for Spirit

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/11/11 09:02 CST

There was a worrying update posted on the JPL website for Spirit today: an early-season dust storm has darkened its skies enough that its solar panels produced only 89 watt-hours of power yesterday, sol 1,725. Neither rover has ever, ever seen power production levels that low, not even during last year's massive dust storm.

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Opportunity and Spirit updates: Both are now driving

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/10/31 01:26 CDT

Another day, another drive: on sols 1,693 and 1,695 the Opportunity rover conducted two more lengthy drives to the south, totaling almost 200 meters. On the other side of the planet, Spirit is FINALLY in motion again.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit "Bumps" a Move, Opportunity Puts the Pedal to the Metal

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/10/31 12:00 CDT

Spring is still off a ways on the horizon in the Red Planet's southern hemisphere, but the solar-powered Mars Exploration Rovers seemed to shake off their third Martian winter this month, as they roved into new phases and looked to new destinations on their overland expeditions of Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum. In the process, Spirit and Opportunity both chalked up notable achievements in October, adding to their already long list of accomplishments accrued as the world's first long-lived roving robot field geologists.

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Opportunity is really hitting the highway

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/10/28 01:10 CDT

Victoria crater, the site of a Mars year's worth of study, is now far over the horizon, as Opportunity has lately completed a series of very long drives. Opportunity is once again sailing the sand seas of Meridiani Planum.

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Long drives at last for Opportunity (or, getting your kicks on sol 1,666)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/10/02 12:41 CDT

It's been way, way, way too long since the view from either rover's cameras has changed very much. So I hope you'll join me in a shout of "woo hoo!" or perhaps "yippee!" as I show you the latest view from Opportunity, from sol 1,666, as automatically composed in Mike Howard's Midnight Mars Browser software.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Embarks on New Endeavour, Spirit Gets Back To Normal Schedule

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/09/30 12:00 CDT

It's been a September to remember for the Mars Exploration Rovers with Spirit producing enough power to return to its science assignments on a daily basis and Opportunity commanding the spotlight once again as it embarked on a long journey toward a new, humongous crater and one of the most ambitious adventures undertaken on the mission.

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Opportunity's got a long road ahead

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/09/19 05:03 CDT

Mars Exploration Rover principal investigator Steve Squyres announced on National Public Radio's Science Friday show the next goal for Opportunity, and it's a long, long, long way away: a huge crater about 12 kilometers southeast of its current location, which the team is referring to internally as "Endeavour."

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Exits Victoria Crater, Spirit Picks Up Pace on Panorama

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/08/31 12:00 CDT

Clear skies and a warming Sun brightened winter in the southern hemisphere of the Red Planet, giving the Mars Exploration Rovers, appropriately enough, an august month. Opportunity packed up, left Cape Verde in the dust, and made headlines when it roved out of Victoria Crater last Thursday. On the other side of the planet, Spirit picked up the pace of photographing its surroundings for its next big, 360-degree, full color panorama.

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Opportunity's ready for a new adventure!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/08/29 03:43 CDT

It's official: Opportunity is out of Victoria. A news release from JPL stated today that Opportunity has, as of late yesterday (sol 1,634), exited Victoria crater.

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Looking back into Victoria crater

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/08/08 08:00 CDT

Here's another wonderful self-portrait silhouette by Opportunity.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Bides Winter Time, Opportunity Wraps Victoria and Begins Exit

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/07/31 12:00 CDT

After cruising through winter solstice in late June, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) roved into July taking every advantage of a winter that is by all appearances now proving to be rather mild for the Red Planet. At Gusev Crater, Spirit managed to maintain its power level and get back to doing a little bit of science, while on the other side of the planet, at Meridiani Planum, Opportunity finished photographing Cape Verde and began to chart its course back to Duck Bay where it will exit Victoria Crater.

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Danes on Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/07/17 08:41 CDT

I was delighted to receive an email from Morten Bo Madsen, who I knew from the Mars Exploration Rover mission as "that Danish magnet guy," the fellow responsible for the magnet experiments on nearly every American Mars mission. The magnets were originally designed to study the properties of airborne Martian dust, which would help determine its composition.

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