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Blog Archive


Some beautiful video from the Spirit and Opportunity landing sites

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/05/12 06:02 CDT

A majority of the people who work in planetary geology are usually associated with one or maybe two missions, doing all their research on the results from one instrument on one mission. But there are a few people whose expertise cuts across many space missions, and an even smaller number of people who seem to work on almost everything. Randy Kirk is one of those people.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Powers into Winter, Opportunity "Shoulders" Injury

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/04/30 12:00 CDT

With winter settling in on the southern hemisphere of the Red Planet, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) spent April working on their respective science campaigns and hunkering down in brutally chilly nights that are seeing temperatures drop to around -95 degree Celsius. As the month comes to an end at Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum, there is good news and there is bad news.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Takes in Home Surroundings, Opportunity Roves to Cape Verde

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/03/31 12:00 CDT

Brandishing the trademark resilience that has endeared them to millions of people around the world, the Mars Exploration Rovers kept their robotic noses to the grindstone through March, soldiering on into their third Martian winter with slightly more power than predictions anticipated and enough proven mettle to dodge a budgetary pothole on Earth that might have taken one of them out of action. Now, 50 months after Spirit defied the odds and bounced safely to an upright landing and Opportunity followed with the impossible scoring of a 300-million-mile hole-in-one, the twin robot field geologists are driving the MER mission into new territory once again.

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Mars Budget Cuts

Posted by Ryan Anderson on 2008/03/24 07:20 CDT

Exploring another planet is an expensive business. We all know this, but sometimes it hits home harder than others. Today was one of those times.

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Spirit, seen from space

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/03/24 05:46 CDT

The HiRISE instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter really is a spy camera in space. Check out this sequence of nine images from the HiRISE archives, which Doug Ellison pulled together into an animation covering more than a year of Spirit's mission.

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Opportunity watches the clouds drift by

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/02/12 04:11 CST

Opportunity is now following a rather leisurely autumn schedule, according to the latest update on the mission website. Some of the work Opportunity is doing involves staring skyward, looking for patterns in the clouds that pass overhead at this time of year. One of the guys at has put together some nifty animations of the wispy cloud patterns.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit and Opportunity Begin Fifth Year of Exploration in Shadow of "Little Sasquatch "

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/01/31 11:00 CST

The Mars Exploration Rovers celebrated their fourth birthdays and began their fifth year of exploring this month -- and for the first time since the big dust storm hit the headlines last summer, Spirit and Opportunity made the news. It wasn't for the notable exploration or engineering milestone they had just achieved or the discoveries they've helped scientists make about a once very different Mars. It was because of an alleged "Bigfoot" sighting.

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Teeny little Bigfoot on Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/01/23 01:41 CST | 3 comments

The story of a Sasquatch-shaped rock visible in a recent panorama from Spirit is getting a lot of play in the mainstream media, but fortunately, it's not being taken very seriously. (My favorite take on this picture is the lead from the Times Online story about it: "Is it a rock? A trick of Martian light on the eye? Or Osama Bin Laden waving from his barren hideout 300 million miles from planet Earth?")

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit and Opportunity Wrap Year 4, Ready to Rove into 2008

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2007/12/31 11:00 CST

The mission was only supposed to last three months, maybe six months if all went well, but the Mars Exploration Rovers surprised everyone. Demonstrating an uncanny kind of "robot right stuff," they roved far beyond what anyone dreamed and now, in a matter of days, Spirit and Opportunity will celebrate their 4th birthdays and rove into their fifth year of exploring the Red Planet.

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A dusty start to Spirit's winter

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2007/12/14 05:35 CST

Dust from the sky has settled on both the rover deck and the surrounding landscape. The dust-covered solar cells will not be able to generate as much power as when they were clean. Unless a puff of wind dusts off the solar panels, Spirit may have difficulty surviving the approaching Martian winter.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Thrashes with Tartarus, Opportunity Wrestles RAT at Victoria's Ring

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2007/11/30 11:00 CST

Nail-biting drama and the inevitable signs of aging marked the month of November for the Mars Exploration Rovers, with Spirit accidentally encountering Tartarus, a dust-filled crater, on its way to its winter haven and having to thrash for its life, and Opportunity spending a lot of its time conducting tests on its RAT (rock abrasion tool), which lost another encoder.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Homes in on Winter Site as Opportunity Examines Victoria's Ring

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2007/10/31 12:00 CDT

The Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) logged another major milestone in October as they completed a second Martian year of field geology and now may rove on through 2009.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Slides Across Home Plate as Opportunity Digs in at Victoria Crater

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2007/09/30 12:00 CDT

It might not be the stuff of Broadway musicals, but the Sun and did "come out tomorrow" on Mars. Just eight weeks after dust from severe storms darkened the Martian skies and threatened their solar-powered lives, the Mars Exploration Rovers finished dusting off as much as possible and took off on their long-anticipated expeditions this month, with Spirit roving onto an old volcanic formation called Home Plate and Opportunity cruising into Victoria Crater.

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Skies slowly lightening for Spirit and Opportunity

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2007/09/07 05:27 CDT

I just received another batch of "tau" images from rover camera lead Jim Bell to add to my visualizations of the rovers' dark skies. These pictures provide a direct measurement of the opacity of the atmosphere between the rovers and the Sun.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit and Opportunity Shake Some Dust, Assess Storm Damage, and Return to Exploring

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2007/08/31 12:00 CDT

With dust from the summer's storms floating down on and all around them, the Mars Exploration Rovers returned to their exploration agendas this month, picking up right where they left off in July when winds kicked the soils up into the southern hemisphere and forced them to hunker down and conserve power.

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Dust storm update: A rover's-eye-view

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2007/08/29 05:06 CDT

I haven't written an update on the dust storm at Mars recently for two reasons. For one, the rovers are out of immediate danger, so it wasn't as urgent. The other reason is that Jim Bell wanted Cornell to issue a press release with updated versions of the images and animations I've been putting together from the rovers' "tau" images.

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A little good news on the rovers

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2007/08/08 10:56 CDT

The skies aren't quite as dark as they have been, for both Spirit and Opportunity. In fact, Spirit has enough power now to be doing a little work with its robotic arm.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity and Spirit Brave Global Dust Storm

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2007/07/31 12:00 CDT

It was to be a Martian summer to remember. Just one month ago, the Mars Exploration Rovers were set to embark on long-awaited adventures. At Meridiani Planum, Opportunity was preparing for its grand entrance into the magnificent Victoria Crater and on the other side of the planet Spirit was finally going to explore the top of Home Plate, an old, intriguing volcanic formation in the Gusev Crater area. Then a series of dust storms hit suddenly, it was a Martian summer to remember alright, but for far different, windswept reasons.

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High tau for Spirit and Opportunity

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2007/07/30 12:26 CDT

Over the weekend I fiddled with the "tau" images that Mars Exploration Rover Pancam lead Jim Bell gave me, and I produced a couple of different ways to visualize the darkness of the rovers' skies.

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