[meteorite-list] Second Mars Rover Successfully Completes Primary Mission

Ron Baalke baalke at zagami.jpl.nasa.gov
Mon Apr 26 20:28:12 EDT 2004


Second Mars rover successfully completes primary mission
By Andrew Bridges
April 26,2004

LOS ANGELES - The second of NASA's twin Mars rovers wrapped up its 
primary mission on Monday, the 90th full day Opportunity has spent 
on the Red Planet since landing late in January on a broad, dry 
plain it's since discovered was once drenched in water.  

NASA expects the six-wheeled Opportunity to continue working through 
September or longer, possibly tripling in duration its planned 
mission of just 90 days. It's traveled 2,676 feet so far across Mars. 

"We're ready, willing and able to carry on with the extended mission," 
said deputy project manager Jim Erickson, of NASA's Jet Propulsion 

As of Monday, Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, have completed all 
the baseline tasks NASA required before the space agency would 
consider the double mission a success.

Each identical rover traveled at least 1,980 feet, took stereo and 
color panoramas of its surroundings, drove to at least eight 
locations and operated simultaneously with its twin for 60 days. 

Spirit is already well into its own extended mission. It began on 
Monday its 112th day on Mars, halfway around the planet from its 

The goal of the $835 million double mission is to scour Mars for 
geologic evidence that the planet once was a wetter place capable 
of sustaining life. Opportunity has found that evidence in spades 
at Meridiani Planum, where rocks suggest a shallow sea covered the 
region at one time in the distant past. 

It's now about 660 feet from Endurance Crater, a broad basin that 
scientists hope preserves in its rocky rim further evidence of the 
region's watery past. The crater appears too steep for the rover 
to enter, Erickson said. 

On the opposite side of Mars, Spirit has found evidence of only 
limited amounts of past moisture at Gusev Crater. 

Spirit is now about 50 days from reaching the Columbia Hills, 
where it likely will spend the balance of its mission prospecting 
for traces of more substantial amounts of water, said Mike Carr, 
of the U.S. Geological Survey. 

Scientists believe the Columbia Hills could contain deposits laid 
down in the past, when a lake may have filled the vast impact 
crater that Spirit landed in three weeks before Opportunity. 

While en route, Spirit recently passed the one-kilometer (.62-mile) 
mark, Erickson said. 

Mechanical breakdowns and the fierce martian cold likely will be 
the death of the rovers, which will remain on Mars once their 
mission ends. 

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