Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Rovers Still Exploring Mars After 2 Years - Yahoo! News

Rovers Still Exploring Mars After 2 Years - Yahoo! News: "LOS ANGELES - The warranty expired long ago on
NASA's twin robots motoring around Mars. These two golf cart-sized vehicles were only expected to last three months.

In two years, they have traveled a total of seven miles. Not impressed? Try keeping your car running in a climate where the average temperature is 67 below zero and where dust devils can reach 100 mph.

'These rovers are living on borrowed time. We're so past warranty on them,' says Steven Squyres of Cornell University, the Mars mission's principal researcher. 'You try to push them hard every day because we're living day-to-day.'

This mission is the first time any probe has extensively rolled across Mars, whose rocky landscape is a dangerous place for man-made objects to settle and roam.

There have been four previous Mars landings that succeeded. Of those, NASA's stationary Viking 1 lander operated the longest, from 1976 to 1982. NASA's Sojourner was the first rover, but it stayed close to its Pathfinder lander.

Spirit and Opportunity parachuted to opposite ends of Mars. Spirit landed in Gusev Crater, a 90-mile-wide depression south of the Martian equator. Opportunity followed three weeks later, touching down on Meridiani Planum on the other side of the planet.

In two years, Spirit has traveled over three miles and beamed back 70,000 images including self-portraits and panoramas of the rust-colored planet's surface. Opportunity has driven over four miles and transmitted more than 58,000 images"

Sounds like a great investment for NASA, and the US. Can you imagine trying to drive one of these things? Each movement requireing about 4 minutes to comunicate, and your visuals are 4 minutes behind what is acctually happening... Just incredible that we can that.

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