Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tales from the Geek, Part Five

As a footnote to the preceding, opal had previously been found at Gusev Crater on Mars by the Mars rover Spirit.

And speaking of Spirit and Opportunity, they are still at it.

Having climbed out of Victoria Crater where it has spent the last two years, Opportunity has begun a marathon trip to Endeavor Crater, which is 20 times larger than Victoria - but it's seven miles away, nearly as far as the entire distance Opportunity has traveled since landing on Mars nearly five years ago. Even so,
"things are looking great," [NASA's Steve] Squyres noted. That robot is in some very difficult terrain at the moment, but still routinely driving some 260 feet (80 meters) or more per Mars day."
Spirit, hit with a dust storm that darkened the skies and covered its solar panels with a coating of red dust, was feared to be in real trouble, as it produced only 89 watt hours of energy one day last weekend - the lowest recorded for either rover and less than what it needs to be fully operational.

However, on Thursday, Spirit communicated with ground control right when it was supposed to, proving it was still alive, albeit weakened, and able to communicate normally. Now they just have to figure out the best course of action. "But this is all good news," said Project Manager John Callas.

Spirit and Opportunity are now in day 1,730 and day 1,711, respectively, of their 90-day missions.

Oh, and the picture? It's of a Martian sunset, taken by Spirit in May 2005.

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