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

A.J.S. Rayl • November 13, 2008

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!"

High dust levels are making life tough for Spirit

Emily Lakdawalla • November 11, 2008

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.

Opportunity and Spirit updates: Both are now driving

Emily Lakdawalla • October 31, 2008

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.

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

A.J.S. Rayl • October 31, 2008

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.

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

A.J.S. Rayl • September 30, 2008

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.

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

A.J.S. Rayl • August 31, 2008

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.

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

A.J.S. Rayl • July 31, 2008

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.

Danes on Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • July 17, 2008

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.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Shudders Through Solstice, Opportunity Shoots Cape Verde Base

A.J.S. Rayl • June 30, 2008

The Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) celebrated a landmark milestone in June as they "trudged" through the very depths of their third Martian winter.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Presses On, Opportunity Roves On as Martian Winter Sets In

A.J.S. Rayl • May 31, 2008

As Phoenix commanded the headlines with its flawless touchdown in the arctic region of the Red Planet this past month, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) forged onward slowly, quietly and out of the spotlight, heading into the depths of their third Martian winter. Spirit persevered and held its own in terms of energy, while Opportunity, after six weeks of being stopped in its tracks with a shoulder joint injury, roved once more.

Some beautiful video from the Spirit and Opportunity landing sites

Emily Lakdawalla • May 12, 2008

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.

What's up in the solar system for the week of May 12

Emily Lakdawalla • May 12, 2008

It's time to check in on what's going on with our trusty robots around the solar system.

What's up in the solar system for the week of May 5

Emily Lakdawalla • May 05, 2008

Here's what's happening on active planetary missions this week.

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

A.J.S. Rayl • April 30, 2008

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.

What's up in the solar system for the week of April 28

Emily Lakdawalla • April 28, 2008

I thought it would be fun to start the week by taking stock of what's going on with all the active planetary missions out there.

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

A.J.S. Rayl • March 31, 2008

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.

Mars Budget Cuts

Ryan Anderson • March 24, 2008

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.

Spirit, seen from space

Emily Lakdawalla • March 24, 2008

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.

Opportunity watches the clouds drift by

Emily Lakdawalla • February 12, 2008

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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