Mars Rovers Near Five Years of Science and Discovery

, a minute to read

None of the en­gi­neers who worked on Mars Ex­plo­ra­tion Rovers pre­dicted both will be op­er­at­ing in 2009 – twenty times longer than the prime mis­sion plan. The rovers have made dis­cover­ies about wet and sand storm­ing cli­mate on Mars. They re­layed high qual­ity im­ages, driven over 21 kilome­ters, climbed a moun­tain, de­scended into craters and sur­veyed sand­s­torms.

Oc­ca­sional clean­ing of dust from the rover’s so­lar pan­els by strong wind has pro­vided unan­tic­i­pated aid to the ve­hi­cles con­di­tion. With rover’s en­ergy ris­ing for spring and sum­mer, the team plans to drive into God­dard crater. “God­dard doesn’t look like an im­pact crater. We sus­pect it might be a vol­canic ex­plo­sion crater, and that's some­thing we haven’t seen be­fore,” said Steve Squyres of Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity. Sec­ond rover’s des­ti­na­tion is En­deav­our Crater. It is ap­prox­i­mately 22 kilome­ters in di­am­e­ter and 12 kilome­ters from an­other im­pact crater Vic­to­ria, where rover spent most of the past two years. “Once it seemed like a crazy idea to go to En­deav­our, but now we're do­ing it,” said Frank Hart­man, a JPL rover driver. High-res­o­lu­tion im­ages from Mars Re­con­nais­sance Or­biter, which reached Mars in 2006, are help­ing the team plot routes around po­ten­tial sand traps that were not pre­vi­ously dis­cern­able from or­bit.