Spirit, landed on Mars on Jan. 3, 2004, and Opportunity landed
Jan. 24. The rovers, equipped with panoramic cameras, magnets to
collect dust particles and other instruments, were commissioned to
send images back to scientists to help them determine where to
perform geological tests to look for water. The solar-powered rovers
were expected to run out of power in 90 days, but are still rolling
along a year later.
And not only are the little red rovers persistent, they're tough.
JPL officials tell us they've withstood the worst solar flares in
human history, global dust storms, a severe Martian winter and
computer problems -- all of which could have easily derailed the
Spirit and Opportunity have each traveled six kilometers, sending
back more than 62,000 images of Mars and chemical analysis of soil
After previous unsuccessful rover missions this victory must, and
should be, sweet for NASA.
The resilient rovers are funded through March at $3 million a
piece. If they keep on roving and sending back valuable information
to scientists about Mars, they should keep on being funded.
We have already gained so much new knowledge -- the key piece
being that Mars once had running water and could have sustained life
-- that it is clearly worthwhile. Who knows what they will find if
the program funding can keep up with the rovers?
Congratulations JPL on a job well done. Keep on roving.