As Spirit rang in her new year at Gusev Crater on Mars Monday, NASA officials and mission team members celebrated the Mars Exploration Rovers first anniversary at an event that featured a press conference, storytelling session, and birthday party at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
After more than a year of active-duty research, the Mars Exploration Rovers have caught 'second winds' -- in part because of their new, recently uploaded software and, in part -- however strange it may seem -- from the planet's notorious dust devils.
The Mars Exploration Rovers have both encountered some truly challenging obstacles in recent days, but have also presented the team with some surprises, and continue to be in overall good health some 16 months after bouncing to a landing, and more than a year after completing their primary missions.
Spirit has returned enough pictures from the summit of Husband Hill for the Mars Exploration Team to have put together a 240-degree color panorama of her view, which they released at a news conference today, held at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C. In coming days, the rover will return the rest of the images to complete the full, 360-degree, color panorama.
Despite a few unexpected bumps and curves in their explorations at Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum, the Mars Exploration Rovers have been working away and both Spirit and Opportunity have put in a very productive month's worth of work on the Red Planet.
The Mars Exploration Rovers science team witnessed a bit of an expansion down here on Earth this month, while up on the Red Planet Spirit and Opportunity continued roving along. As Halloween nears, the twin robot geologists have put in another solid month's worth of work, overcoming every occasional "hiccup." At this point, as Mars' orbit brings it as close to Earth as it will get until the summer of 2018, both Spirit and Opportunity are moving into new territories at their respective inspection sites.
In its orbit around the Sun, the Red Planet has been returning to where it was when the Mars Exploration Rovers first landed back in January 2004, and, as the twin robot field geologists are marking the milestone of their first Martian year -- equivalent to almost two Earth years -- fireworks are flashing all around the planet. Although the cause of the fireworks is actually debris from Halley's comet, through which Mars is currently passing, the timing seems so metaphorically appropriate.
The Mars Exploration Rovers have each completed their first Mars Year (687 Earth days) and are close to completing their second Earth year exploring their respective sites on the Red Planet. With both Spirit and Opportunity finding new variations of bedrock in the areas they are exploring, the mission is continuing to send the team holiday gifts in the form of intriguing discoveries.
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