The Mars Exploration Rovers' fourth Martian winter is proving to be the harshest one yet and Spirit and Opportunity are getting colder than ever before. With temperatures on the Red Planet dropping in April and the Martian winter solstice still two weeks away, the season has turned into a shivering nail-biter.
March seems to have come in like a lamb and gone out like a lion on the Red Planet this year as the Mars Exploration Rovers trudged deeper into their fourth winter. While Opportunity finished up work at Concepcin Crater and shifted into gear back on the road to Endeavour Crater, Spirit finished up winter preparations and carried out a limited winter agenda before shifting, it appears, into hibernation mode.
Just a little update here to post a Navcam panorama from Opportunity showing that the rover successfully arrived yesterday at the doublet crater she's been aiming for since she left Concepcion a couple of weeks ago.
I saw this image at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference so am happy they released it: a view of Opportunity sitting on the north rim of the little, fresh Concepción crater, taken on sol 2153 (February 13, 2010).
I wrote earlier about some results from Spirit reported at this year's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas; here are the rest of my notes on rover-related talks, from Opportunity's site on the opposite side of Mars.
As winter put the freeze on in the southern hemisphere of the Red Planet, the Mars Exploration Rovers slowed down a bit, but continued throughout February to demonstrate the mettle that made them famous: Spirit successfully drove backwards, parked in place for the season, then continued working, as Opportunity roved through rock debris on a cruise around the rim of Concepcin Crater.
I think a goodly proportion of you readers have already figured this out for yourselves since it was launched last March, but I didn't download and install it until last weekend, so this is new to me: Google Mars is awesome.
Although I am not suffering under the "snowpocalypse" on the East Coast, I woke up to Monday absolutely buried under a massive pile of things to do for both home and work, and it looks like it's going to take me a few days to dig out. So, with apologies, I'm going to make today's post a linky one.
It looks like the rover team thinks Concepcion is pretty enough (in both aesthetic and a scientific senses) to be worthy of the full-color Pancam panorama treatment; color frames started arriving on Earth over the weekend.
Five and a half years after they were supposed to be history, the Mars Exploration Rovers celebrated their sixth Earth year on the Red Planet with Opportunity pulling up to a fresh, new crater on the road to Endeavour, and Spirit working on repositioning itself to settle in for the coming Martian winter, and perhaps the rest of its mission.
Since leaving Marquette Island on sol 2,122, Opportunity has been barreling southward on her journey toward Endeavour crater. On her horizon for the last several sols has been a very small but very fresh looking crater named Concepción.
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.