The Mars Exploration Rovers are each entering new chapters in their extended missions that are already returning more intriguing discoveries, but they are both beginning to slow down now as the Martian winter closes in on them.
During the last three weeks, the Mars Exploration Rovers have been continuing to rove and explore their respective regions of Mars. Spirit has continued her trek to the Columbia Hills in the Gusev Crater area of Mars, while on the other side of the planet, at Meridiani Planum; Opportunity has been investigating Endurance Crater.
As Spirit continued her journey to the Columbia Hills in Gusev Crater, Opportunity cruised into her extended mission at Meridiani Planum this week, marking the milestone of the rovers' Martian adventure -- full mission success.
This week, the Mars Exploration Rovers team successfully installed the new flight software it was uploading to Spirit and Opportunity last weekend. Now, the rovers have enhanced capabilities that should make their remaining Martian sols even safe and more productive, announced Jan Chodas, flight software manager, at the weekly news briefing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
The Mars Exploration Rovers continued to crank out scientific findings about Mars this week: Spirit sent home clues of past ground water at Gusev Crater; Opportunity set a one-day distance driving record and returned to the scene of her arrival, the rock she bounced off on upon landing at Meridiani Planum.
The Mars Exploration Rovers each focused their research efforts this week studying the rim of a crater. At Gusev, Spirit continued her study of Bonneville Crater, while at Meridiani Planum Opportunity spent most of her time driving around the southern and eastern portions of Eagle Crater conducting a soil survey of five targets.
After nearly two months of study, Opportunity has emerged from her landing crater at Meridiani Planum and onto "the shoreline of what was once a salty sea suitable for life," scientists announced at a special press conference held at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C., yesterday.
Four days after scientists announced that rocks examined by the rover Opportunity in Meridiani Planum were once soaked with water, Opportunity's twin Spirit made some headline news of its own. In a press conference this morning at the Jet Propulsion laboratory in Pasadena, Dr. Ray Arvidson, Deputy Principal Investigator for the rovers, announced that Spirit had discovered the telltale signs that some amount water had once been present in Gusev Crater as well.