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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As winter gives way to spring on the Red Planet, the Mars Explorations Rovers are maintaining their 5-day a week work schedules and continuing to send surprises home to Earth. Despite a recurring 'ache' in one of her steering motors, Spirit is continuing her climb in the Columbia Hills toward a rock called Uchben, while her twin, Opportunity, is completing her work at Wopmay.
The Mars Exploration Rovers are roving ever on into new territories and deeper into the history books as they close in on the end of one full Earth year of active duty at their respective sites on Red Planet.
The Mars Exploration Rovers are trudging ever onward through the dead of winter on the Red Planet dreaming, perhaps, if robots dream, of a white Christmas. But Spirit and Opportunity are robots after all and come this weekend "the poor little rovers will have to keep working, even on Christmas," MER Project Scientist Joy Crisp, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), told The Planetary Society earlier today.
Let's Change the World
Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.