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. I really wanted to include the whole thing inline in this blog entry but I figured it would be cruel to post a 700k inline image for those of you who have to download my blog entries through the soda straw of a dialup connection.
Watch the animation a little while and just appreciate the coolness of being able to follow the rover's tracks around the crater. Then think to yourself about how that little moving speck and shadow is a human-built piece of hardware, more than a hundred million kilometers away from us, making a world that's inhospitable to our weak bodies into one we can actively roam, however slowly.
There was some bad funding news for Spirit and Opportunity today; in order to feed the hungry MSL mission's latest cost overrun, NASA has been forced to cut the Mars program in other places, including a $4 million cut to the rovers (and a similar chunk is being taken out of Odyssey's operations). $4 million may sound like peanuts to NASA but it's about a third of the mission's remaining budget for this year. Ryan Anderson has the details at the Martian Chronicles. The Planetary Society is working in Washington to advocate for the Mars program.