Mat KaplanDec 24, 2013

Planetary Radio: Ten Years A Roving: The Mars Exploration Rovers

This week’s Planetary Radio brings a conversation about one of the most remarkable successes in the history of space exploration.  I’ll go even further. The Mars Exploration Rovers and the team behind them have become explorers for the ages.

If you have followed this mission here at, it’s likely you’ve read the superb monthly reports by A.J.S. Rayl. We know her as Salley Rayl, and she’s my guest on the show.  Listeners to the podcast will get to hear essentially all of the fascinating recollections and observations Salley shared with me.  I believe she has been closer to this mission than any other journalist.  Salley also looks back in the latest edition of The Planetary Report, our great magazine that goes to Society members. (Hint, hint.)

The timing of this topic is no accident.  It was on January 4, 2004 that Spirit fell through the Martian sky, impacted the surface and bounded away, protected by the “beach balls” that had successfully delivered the Pathfinder lander and little Sojourner rover years before. Three weeks later Spirit’s sister, Opportunity, did the same halfway around the planet.  She continues her trek today.

The Planetary Society is gearing up for a grand, online celebration of this 10th anniversary. Watch for a terrific video conversation between Emily Lakdawalla and Dr. Jim Bell, the man I call the Ansel Adams of Mars.  We’ll post it as soon as I finish editing!  We’re also planning a Planetary Radio Live celebration in Pasadena.  More about that soon.

This show is also the last that many listeners will hear in 2013.  I asked Emily and Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye to pick their favorite space stories from the last 12 months.  I can’t argue with their choices.  Bruce Betts is watching as Venus ends her glorious, weeks-long dominance of the night sky. He tells us that there are many other things to be seen with the naked eye. He and I also give you another chance to win the outstanding Year in Space Wall Calendar.  What better way to ring in a new year of exploration?

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