Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mars Rovers Finish Primary Mission And Roll Onward

April 29, 2004
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Both of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers have completed their originally planned mission and are tackling extra-credit assignments.

This extract from a 360-degree panorama taken by the navigation camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit highlights the bumpy terrain surrounding the rover. Spirit's shadow can be seen in a small hollow lying between the rover and its intended target, the eastern-lying "Columbia Hills." Spirit's longest drive so far covered about 88.5 meters (about 290 feet) and took place on sol 113. This image was taken on sol 112 (April 26, 2004).
Credit: Image NASA/JPL

Both of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers have completed their originally planned mission and are tackling extra-credit assignments.

Related Articles

"Spirit and Opportunity have completed all the primary objectives of the mission. The terrific success achieved is a tribute to a superb team whose commitment to excellence, and keeping the public engaged, is hard to match," said Orlando Figueroa, director of the Mars Exploration Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington.

Opportunity finished its 90th martian day of surface operations on Monday. That was the last of several criteria set in advance for full mission success. Spirit passed its 90- day mark on April 5. Both rovers have met all goals for numbers of locations examined in detail, distances traveled, and scientific measurements with all instruments. Both rovers are healthy. In early April, NASA approved funding for extending operation of Spirit and Opportunity through September.

"This brings Opportunity's primary mission at Meridiani Planum to a resounding and successful close. It's stunning to think through the short history of this vehicle," said Matt Wallace, Opportunity mission manger at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., where rover assembly began barely two years ago. In its three-month primary mission, Opportunity drove 811 meters (more than half a mile) and sent home 15.2 gigabits of data about Mars, including 12,429 images.

Opportunity found other rock exposures in recent days similar to the ones near its landing site that yielded evidence for a body of salty water covering the area long ago. Instead of spending many days to examine those rocks, controllers told the rover to go to the rim of a 130-meter-wide (approximately 430-foot-wide) crater informally named "Endurance."

When Opportunity sends home a view into Endurance Crater, expected within a few days, scientists and engineers will begin deciding whether the rover should try to enter that crater. "We're coming up on a major branch point in the mission," said Dr. Scott McLennan of the State University of New York, Stony Brook, N.Y., a member of the rovers' science team. "Can we get down into Endurance? Can we get back out?"

Last week, Opportunity paused beside a crater dubbed "Fram," less than one-tenth the size of Endurance Crater. It examined a rock studded with small, iron-rich spherules that are one part of the evidence for past water in the region. The rover used its rock abrasion tool to grind a hole. This allowed examination of the interior of the rock, called "Pilbara."

McLennan said, "Pilbara is a dead ringer for McKittrick," a rock target in the outcrop Opportunity examined in February and March. Another rock at Fram showed hints that it might provide the best-yet evidence about how minerals precipitated out of solution as the ancient body of water evaporated. "It's something that would be of interest to come back and study more if we don't see something of even greater interest along our way," he said. Images of Endurance Crater from a distance seem to show much thicker layers of outcrop than Opportunity has been able to reach so far.

Improvement to the rovers' mobility from new software has expanded options for planning their explorations. Spirit and Opportunity have driven farther in April than in the previous three months combined. Spirit has traveled more that 1.2 kilometers (three-fourths of a mile), and has another 1.8 kilometers (more than a mile) to go before reaching highlands informally named "Columbia Hills." Scientists hope to examine rock layers older than the volcanic plain Spirit has been crossing. This week, Spirit is crossing from an area dominated by material dispersed by crater-forming impacts into an area with fewer rocks.

"We are transitioning into a geologically different region. Nothing could be more striking evidence of this than the view ahead of a landscape that has fewer and smaller rocks than the region explored so far," said Dr. Dave Des Marais, a rover science team member from NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. Scientists are using Spirit's observations at ground level to check ideas about the region's geology based on observations from orbiting spacecraft. That could improve interpretation of orbital data for the whole planet. Spirit will systematically survey the soils, rocks and other features on the plain as it continues toward Columbia Hills, with arrival planned for mid to late June.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Images and additional information about the project are available from JPL at http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov and from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., at http://athena.cornell.edu.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Mars Rovers Finish Primary Mission And Roll Onward." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 April 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040429053011.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2004, April 29). Mars Rovers Finish Primary Mission And Roll Onward. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040429053011.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Mars Rovers Finish Primary Mission And Roll Onward." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040429053011.htm (accessed April 1, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Space & Time News

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Universe Could Be Full Of Tatooine Sunsets

The Universe Could Be Full Of Tatooine Sunsets

Newsy (Mar. 30, 2015) University of Utah researchers say mathematical simulations show small, rocky planets, like Tatooine from "Star Wars," can form in dual-star systems. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What NASA Wants To Learn From Its 'Year In Space' Tests

What NASA Wants To Learn From Its 'Year In Space' Tests

Newsy (Mar. 28, 2015) Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend a year in space running tests on human physiology and psychology. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Astronauts Arrive at ISS for 1-Year Mission

Raw: Astronauts Arrive at ISS for 1-Year Mission

AP (Mar. 28, 2015) The capsule carrying a Russian and an American who are to spend a year away from Earth docked Saturday with the International Space Station. (March 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crew Starts One-Year Space Mission

Crew Starts One-Year Space Mission

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 28, 2015) Russian-U.S. crew arrives safely at the International Space Station for the start of a ground-breaking year-long stay. Paul Chapman reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins