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The Mars Exploration Rovers Update for 2004

NASA Begins Countdown to Spirit's Arrival on Mars

A.J.S. Rayl • January 03, 2004

Spirit – the first of NASA's two robot geologists en route to the red Planet -- is “in “excellent” health, NASA and JPL scientists reported at a news briefing at JPL this afternoon, and the countdown to touch down on the Red Planet has begun.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Lands on Red Planet, Returns First Images

A.J.S. Rayl • January 04, 2004

Spirit -- NASA's first Mars Exploration Rover -- survived the 'six minutes of terror' entering and descending through the atmosphere to land safely -- and upright -- in Gusev Crater on the Red Planet. Just two hours after the confirmation signal of the landing, the first engineering data and images began streaming into the MER Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where Spirit and her twin, Opportunity were built.

Mars Rover 'Alive and Well' Returning More Images

A.J.S. Rayl • January 04, 2004

Spirit spent a quiet, cold night in Gusev Crater, and woke up to return streams of new data, including more black and white 'postcards' from Mars.

Spirit Spends First Full Days on Mars; Scientists Report "More Good News"

A.J.S. Rayl • January 05, 2004

With additional data due later today and early tomorrow morning, the mission team is hoping to receive and piece together the first color picture perfect panoramic postcard -- from the PanCam, a high resolution stereo vision camera -- for the briefing tomorrow.

Spirit: A Star is Born, A Space Agency and A Nation Are Lifted

A.J.S. Rayl • January 06, 2004

If a Hollywood screenwriter had crafted the scenes for the last few days of the Spirit Mission Team at JPL as they really happened -- success after success, triumphant image after triumph he or she would be out of a job.

Spirit Returns More "Exquisite" Data, Inspires New Generation of Space Explorers

A.J.S. Rayl • January 09, 2004

Spirit continues to return "exquisite" science data -- including more impressive high-resolution pictures of its alien surroundings -- and it has stood up, but the golf-cart sized rover is still days away from rolling off the Columbia Memorial Station.

Mars Rover Spirit Sends First 360-Degree Color Panorama 'Postcard' and Prepares to Roll onto Martian Surface

A.J.S. Rayl • January 12, 2004

As Spirit slept soundly after another near-perfect day of picture taking, science gathering, and data relays from Mars, NASA released the first color 360-degree panorama postcard it sent home.

Spirit Set to Roll Off Lander Thursday

A.J.S. Rayl • January 12, 2004

Spirit is up -- standing at full height on all six wheels -- and is ready to roll off the lander heading west by northwest, probably sometime early Thursday morning Earth time, according to the latest plan.

Spirit Begins Maneuver to Roll onto Surface; Mars Rover will "Head for the Hills"

A.J.S. Rayl • January 13, 2004

As Earthlings slept last night, Spirit completed the first part of a three-part maneuver that will take her down the ramp and onto the Martian surface early Thursday morning Earth time.

Let's Roll: Spirit Poised to Cruise onto Martian Surface

A.J.S. Rayl • January 14, 2004

Spirit is ready to roll.

Spirit Hits the -- Martian -- Road!

A.J.S. Rayl • January 15, 2004

Spirit gets 6 wheels on soil. For some of the team members, this was the real landing.

Spirit Extends Arm and Takes First Close-Up Images of Martian Soil

A.J.S. Rayl • January 17, 2004

Spirit has extended her robotic arm for the first time to examine a patch of fine-grained Martian soil, and joined forces with the European Space Agency's Mars Express to successfully conduct the first-ever, international, coordinated observation of the planet's atmosphere.

Spirit Ventures Out to First Target

A.J.S. Rayl • January 19, 2004

Spirit ventured out yesterday, driving nearly 10 feet (about 3 meters) to its first target -- a football-sized rock that scientists have dubbed Adirondack. Meanwhile, Spirit's twin, Opportunity, successfully completed its first trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) in four months.

Spirit Discovers Surprises in Martian Soil, but Earth Weather Blocks Commands to Continue Work

A.J.S. Rayl • January 21, 2004

Spirit got off to a running start this week, using three of the four instruments on her robotic arm to study a patch of Martian soil, and the football-sized rock Adirondack.

Spirit Suffers "Serious Anomaly," But Continues 'Beeping' Home

A.J.S. Rayl • January 22, 2004

Something is wrong with Spirit, but what exactly it is -- and just how serious it is -- the Mars Exploration Rover team isn't sure.

Spirit Remains in "Intensive Care," But Continues to Radio Home

A.J.S. Rayl • January 23, 2004

Spirit 'phoned home' this morning and returned some good engineering data, but the Mars rover remains in "intensive care," as members of a newly formed anomaly team scramble to find out what caused the glitch two days ago -- and how to fix it.

Second Mars Rover Opportunity Fast Approaching Mars

A.J.S. Rayl • January 24, 2004

The second Mars Exploration Rover -- Opportunity -- Spirit's identical twin -- is approaching the atmosphere of Mars and is expected to land on the Red Planet tonight around 9:06 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Mars Rover Spirit Upgraded from "Critical" to "Serious"

A.J.S. Rayl • January 24, 2004

The specially formed Anomaly Team working overnight to unravel the mystery of what happened last Wednesday that caused the rover’s computer to fall into a reboot loop and stop functioning properly – had by this morning come up with a working hypothesis.

The Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Lands in “Beautiful, Alien Place!"

A.J.S. Rayl • January 25, 2004

Opportunity landed in Meridiani Planum on Mars last night at 9:05 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST) -- and fours hours later sent its first postcards home!

Spirit is "In Recovery"

A.J.S. Rayl • January 26, 2004

Spirit stopped transmitting good data last Wednesday, but never went silent. It continued communicating with the MER team and returning good information with which the team is now working.

Opportunity Scores "A 300-Million-Mile, Interplanetary Hole-In-One"

A.J.S. Rayl • January 26, 2004

Although it did appear from the very first images returned that the second Mars Exploration Rover had landed inside a small crater when it arrived at Meridiani Planum last Saturday night, that belief was confirmed with further analysis yesterday.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Continues Progress in 'Rehab;' Opportunity Returns "Phenomenal" Images Challenger Crew Remembered

A.J.S. Rayl • January 28, 2004

While the first Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit, continues to make progress in 'rehab,' members of the science teams are marveling at the images Opportunity is sending home.

NASA Names Gusev Crater Hills After Apollo 1 Crew

A.J.S. Rayl • January 28, 2004

NASA Headquarters issued a press release late yesterday announcing that the agency is memorializing the Apollo 1 crew -- Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee -- by naming the hills surrounding the first Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's landing site after the three astronauts.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Sends First Image Home Since Computer Glitch Shut Her Down Last Week

A.J.S. Rayl • January 29, 2004

The first Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit took -- and successfully returned -- her first image since problems.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Rolls onto Surface of Meridiani Planum, Mars and Confirms Presence of Hematite

A.J.S. Rayl • January 31, 2004

Opportunity rolled off her lander and onto the dark red Martian soil at Meridiani Planum early Saturday morning, at about 1:50 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, just one week after the robot field geologist arrived on the Red Planet.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Finds Martian 'Paydirt,' Rolls Onto Surface Spirit Makes A Comeback

A.J.S. Rayl • January 31, 2004

Both Mars Exploration Rovers -- Spirit and Opportunity -- are down in the Martian dirt and getting to work.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Both Spirit and Opportunity Get to Work on Mars

Amir Alexander • February 03, 2004

Both Mars Exploration Rovers -- Spirit and Opportunity -- are getting to work studying the Martian landscapes in which they landed.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Suffers Minor Set-Back

A.J.S. Rayl • February 05, 2004

It's been another week unlike any other week on Mars.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: A Restored Spirit Studies Adirondack, 'Talks' to Mars Express

A.J.S. Rayl • February 08, 2004

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.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Cruises to New Target, 'White Boat' Opportunity Uncovers Mystery Spheres

A.J.S. Rayl • February 10, 2004

Both Mars rovers -- Spirit and Opportunity -- are roving on the Red Planet and doing exactly what they were programmed to do as robot field geologists, explore their surrounding areas.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Breaks Driving Record -- Again, and Meets the Stone Council

A.J.S. Rayl • February 13, 2004

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.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Breaks More Records; Opportunity Digs a Trench

Amir Alexander • February 17, 2004

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.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit To 'Trench' Laguna Hollow; Opportunity Uncovers Shiny Spherules, Takes on El Capitan

A.J.S. Rayl • February 20, 2004

The rovers have been kicking up dirt and roving to new destinations this week, as they pick up the pace and take care of their geological business on Mars.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Keeps on Truckin' to Bonneville Opportunity Continues Study of Outcrop

A.J.S. Rayl • February 28, 2004

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 Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Finds Evidence of Past Liquid Water

A.J.S. Rayl • March 03, 2004

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.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Too Finds Traces of Water

Amir Alexander • March 05, 2004

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.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Emerges from Crater and Onto the Shoreline of What Once Was a Salty Sea

A.J.S. Rayl • March 23, 2004

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.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Finishes Work at Bonneville Crater Opportunity Completes Study at Eagle Crater

A.J.S. Rayl • March 27, 2004

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.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Finds Hints of Water in Mazatzal Opportunity Finds Hints of Hematite in Bounce Rock

A.J.S. Rayl • April 03, 2004

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.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: NASA Approves Extended Missions Spirit & Opportunity Receive Upgrades

A.J.S. Rayl • April 09, 2004

As the Mars Exploration Rovers achieved new milestones on the Red Planet this week, NASA approved a plan to extend the missions for both Spirit and Opportunity to mid-September.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Gets 'Kicks' on Route 66 Opportunity Solves Martian Mystery

A.J.S. Rayl • April 17, 2004

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).

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Makes Tracks to Columbia Hills Opportunity Cruises into Extended Mission

A.J.S. Rayl • April 30, 2004

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.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Sets New Personal Best Driving Record

A.J.S. Rayl • May 07, 2004

"It has been a great week on Mars," Mars Exploration Rovers principal investigator Steve Squyres reported at a press conference yesterday at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Closes in on Columbia Hills Opportunity Heads Back to Karatepe

A.J.S. Rayl • June 03, 2004

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.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Uncovers More Evidence of Water Opportunity Prepares to Rove into Endurance Crater

A.J.S. Rayl • June 09, 2004

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.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Rovers Go Up Hills, Down a Crater, and May be Showing Signs of Age

A.J.S. Rayl • June 15, 2004

The twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity continue their trek across the varied surface of the Red Planet, climbing hills and descending into a crater. After a two-month journey of over 3 kilometers through rocky terrain, Spirit has now begun climbing the Columbia Hills, which were seen on the horizon in the early panoramas taken from the landing site. The rover is expected to spend much of its remaining life climbing the hills and analyzing their geological make-up. Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Opportunity is carefully descending into the stadium-sized depression dubbed "Endurance Crater" by the MER team. The rocky formations revealed on the slopes of the crater promise to provide some of the richest sources for studying the geological history of Mars.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Finds Hematite Opportunity Discovers Signs of More Water

A.J.S. Rayl • June 25, 2004

As the Martian winter descends on Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum, the Mars Exploration Rovers have hit the snowless slopes.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Roves onto "Best" of Martian Bedrock, Evidence of "Much More Water" as Opportunity Uncovers Bizarre Geologic 'Popcorn'

A.J.S. Rayl • August 19, 2004

During the last four weeks, the Mars Exploration Rovers have braved the Martian winter to continue their geologic field work, sending home more evidence of past liquid water on the Red Planet and images of bizarre geologic formations the likes of which no one has seen before.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit and Opportunity Roving Again as NASA Extends Tours of Duty

A.J.S. Rayl • September 23, 2004

After nearly two weeks of sparse, infrequent communication, Spirit and Opportunity have survived winter solstice and resumed "reliable" contact with Earth and the Mars Exploration Rover team -- and NASA has extended funding for an additional six months of operations, as long as the little robot geologists keep working, space agency officials announced late Tuesday.

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