For the Mars Exploration Rovers, October was a lot like September, which was a lot like August: Spirit continued hibernating at Gusev Crater or so it appears since the rover didn't phone home; and Opportunity picked up the pace to Endeavour Crater again, setting new driving records and marking more milestones along the way.
Waaaay back when Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004, the Planetary Society helped the public participate in the missions with a number of projects, including one where we printed "secret codes" around the edges of the two names-bearing DVDs that were bolted to the Mars Exploration Rover landers.
As Opportunity picked up the pace to Endeavour Crater this month and crossed the halfway point on the long journey from Victoria Crater and Spirit continued sleeping in hibernation mode, the Mars Exploration Rovers chalked up their 81st month of what was supposed to have been just a three-month tour of the Red Planet.
Opportunity is continuing to make tracks toward Endeavour crater, but just because she's got a goal for her road trip doesn't mean she won't stop and smell the flowers from time to time. Er, did I say "flowers?" I meant "meteorites."
With the Sun beginning to warm the landscape in the southern hemisphere of the Red Planet and winds whipping up here and there forming dust devils that kick the powdery, rust-colored topsoil into the atmosphere, the Mars Exploration Rovers have been experiencing sure signs of a Martian spring this month.
I've had a fun morning of noodling around learning how to write KML files, and have produced one for Google Mars that shows you all of the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter tracks that cross the area Opportunity has driven through already, as well as the area of Endeavour crater.
Winter lingers in the southern hemisphere of the Red Planet, but the Sun is beginning to rise higher in the sky and temperatures are slowly rising, signs the Mars Exploration Rovers are heading into spring. While Spirit continued hibernating, Opportunity took in the warmth of the Sun, captured its first dust devil, and picked up the pace in Meridiani Planum on the long journey to Endeavour Crater. Together, the rovers marked six and a half years of exploration.
With winter still freezing the southern hemisphere of Mars, June might have been an uneventful month for your average working robot, but not the Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs). In fact, from the sounds of silence to a major discovery to an injury scare, the rovers' latest trials, tribulations and achievements, have turned the last four weeks into something of an emotional roller-coaster for some members of the MER team.
Mars Exploration Rover Spirit continued to hibernate this month, parked in place near an old volcanic formation called Home Plate. At the same time though she managed to rove back into the planetary exploration spotlight when a group of the mission scientists announced they had found -- in data from an outcrop the rover visited more than four years ago -- evidence for a past watery environment more suitable for life than any other either Spirit or Opportunity have found, a place where near-pure water existed. 1
Today is sol 2,246 of Opportunity's mission to Mars; as I write, it's just before 7:00 local solar time. If this sol passes, as her previous 2,245 have done, with Opportunity still alive and speaking to Earth, she will have surpassed a record set on November 12, 1982: Opportunity will pass Viking Lander 1 as the longest-lived landed Mars mission.
A good start to my day today: The New York Times' Lens Blog featured the "Martian Moment in Time" photo that Opportunity took last week in a really nice writeup. I'm so grateful, and still a little surprised, that the folks on the Mars Exploration Rover mission took this idea and ran with it!
On Mars, at 15:00 local true solar time on May 2, a solitary rover gazed southward across her own dusty deck and snapped three photos, actually three sets of three photos, which were combined to make this view.