Five years ago this month Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars. The JPL/NASA guys were hoping to get three months worth of work from these spacecraft. Sixty months later they are still kicking. Surely this is an extraordinary science and engineering achievement! These plucky rovers don't get a lot of mainstream press--space travel, especially robotic space travel, is pretty boring news. The numbers speak for themselves:
The rovers have made important discoveries about wet and violent environments on ancient Mars. They also have returned a quarter-million images, driven more than 21 kilometers (13 miles), climbed a mountain, descended into craters, struggled with sand traps and aging hardware, survived dust storms, and relayed more than 36 gigabytes of data via NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. To date, the rovers remain operational for new campaigns the team has planned for them. (q.v. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/news/mer-20081229.html)
One number NOT in that paragraph is 300,000,000. That's three hundred million. As in miles. That's how much space the rovers had to cross before they descended to the red planet. Here at TPP we like a good space story. So hat's off to Spirit and Opportunity. Happy Anniversary and keep on truckin'.
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