The Mars Exploration Rovers have sent home the first real prize of the mission - evidence of past liquid water on the Red Planet. Opportunity -- which landed five weeks ago inside a small crater near exposed bedrock -- has found evidence that Meridiani Planum was once "drenched with water," and, thus, was once suitable for life as we know it, mission scientists announced at a press conference held NASA Headquarters yesterday.
Spirit and Opportunity continued their search for evidence of water at Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum this week, and a lot of excited and smiling faces have been emanating from behind the scenes, in the mission rooms at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Mars driving records are falling at Gusev Crater, as the rover
Spirit continues its steady progress towards the nearby crater nicknamed "Bonneville." On
Sol 43, which ended on the morning of Monday, February 16, Spirit drove 19
meters (62.3 feet) in the morning and another 8.5 meters (27.9 feet) in the
afternoon. The total drive of 27.5 meters (90.2 feet), breaks the Mars one
day drive record of 24.4 meters (80 feet), set by Spirit only 7 sols ago.
The previous record holder Sojourner, rover of the 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission,
had managed no more than 7 meters (23 feet) in a single sol.
The Mars Exploration Rovers are really starting to 'show their stuff' on the Red Planet. Despite a couple of technological hiccups earlier in the week, the twin robot field geologists are getting down and dirty in the Martian soil.
A fully restored Spirit got back to work late last week on Gusev Crater, using her rock abrasion tool for the first time to brush, then grind into Adirondack. And before her first day back was done, the rover returned more surprises to the science team in the flow of research data she sent home, and reestablished the "international, interplanetary communication network" by exchanging communiqus with the European Space Agency's orbiter, Mars Express.