Spirit and Opportunity Mark One Martian Year

Sunday, December 11 2005 @ 10:59 pm EST

Contributed by: bobmoody

Spirit and Opportunity, NASA's twin Martian Rovers, are marking their 1-year anniversaries on Mars. But one year on Mars equals nearly 2 Earth years. Both these hearty robots have now exceeded their originally intended 90-sol "warranty" periods by more than 7 times, and yet, both are still going strong!

Talk about SUCCESS! The twin Martian Rovers just may outlive a certain popular rabbit! They just keep going, and going, and going....

NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers are the longest lived planetary surface explorers in history, and they don't appear to be any worse for wear after now completing their first full Martian year on the fourth planet from the Sun. One year on Mars is equal to 687 Earth-days, and since a "day" on Mars (called a 'sol') is 24hr and 40min long, a full year on Mars itself is actually 669 Martian days long. How remarkable their stories are, and how fascinating the photojournals of their travels have been. The total number of pictures returned to Earth from both MER rovers to date are: Opportunity - 61,567 raw images....and Spirit - 71,778 raw images. For anyone who would like to view ALL their images, they can be found by clicking on this link: mars rovers gallery

Or perhaps you'd be more interested in viewing NASA's own slide show of the pair's journey since they landed in January of 2004. This slide show will be slow to view on dial-up modems, but DSL or cable subscribers to the internet will be quite pleased at this amazing set of images and their educational captions. See all that this great site has to offer for yourself at the Mars Exploration Rover homepage. Once there, look for and click on the link for the slide show.

Click READ MORE for maps of the terrain crossed by the MER's, and for the rest of this story.

These maps (above and the three below) show the trek made by Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity respectively from their landing sites to their current locations. Higher resolution maps are available through the "Where are they now?" link in the text.
These maps are from the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) home page in the section Where are they now?

Another area of the home page takes you to media information and the "Mars for Press" button. Use this page to find all you need to write about the mission, the hardware, the personnel associated with the project, press release images and documents, and the high-res images that will be needed for reproduction in any articles for yourself. Most importantly, this is also where to find the information needed to properly credit the sources for the images and text associated with the MER missions. Always give proper credit to your sources, and by-the-way, all photos associated with this story are courtesy NASA/JPL/MSSS.

Another very popular button is the "Mars for Kids" section where pure FUN awaits all the young explorers and scientists in your home and family. I can safely guarantee that parents will find so much information you never knew about previously in this section that you'll be just as interested and facinated as your children will be! Who knows, maybe your child will be so inspired by this site that they could become the next American to walk on the Moon, or even the very first American to set foot on Martian soil!

Beyond that, teachers will also benefit from a wealth of information and teaching aids in the "Mars for Educators" section, while their students will benefit from the "Mars for Students" section. Similar sections to these are usually available for most current NASA exploration missions.
Recently, funding for all missions have included some kind of Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) programs associated with the missions when they are funded. NASA recognizes the urgent need for helping the public to better understand the science associated with projects that receive public funds. Of course all NASA programs are funded with our tax dollars. We wind up getting more "bang-for-our-bucks" this way, and NASA benefits from better public support of its missions of exploration .

The NASA Mars Exploration Rover site is a motherlode of information for everyone who visits. With the number of raw images now approaching 150,000 from these two intrepid robots, plus sections for the Press, for Kids, and for Educators and their students, the Mars Exploration Rover mission and its associated E/PO programs through the website are helping everyone on Spaceship Earth to better learn about the 4th rock from the Sun. Yet possibly even more important than that, we're all beginning to understand more about Mars and our solar system in the whole process.

The next time you go out to observe Mars with your telescope, think about this exciting mission, and perhaps from time-to-time, remember these two little "robots that could" which are still churning out more and more information about our red neighbor with every passing day.

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