Feeds

Mars rovers can keep on rovin'

NASA okays another mission extension

High performance access to file storage

Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity have been given the green light to keep on roving, possibly through to the end of 2009. The rovers' continued good health is the only limit mentioned in NASA's announcement of the mission extension.

The twin rovers landed on Mars in 2004. The original mission called for the pair to spend three months trundling across the Martian surface. They have now been exploring the planet for more than three years.

Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, described the rovers as "amazing machines [that] continue to produce amazing scientific results operating far beyond their design life".

Naturally, after three and a half year on Mars, the rovers are showing their age. After only a year NASA reported that Spirit's drill's teeth had worn away after grinding through five times as much rock as expected. Both rovers also suffered this winter as dust storms cut them off from the Sun, their only source of power, and left their solar panels coated in dust for some time after.

But despite their age, John Callas, rover project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says the pair are "in good health and capable of conducting great science".

The rovers have already expanded our understanding of the red planet beyond expectations.

Both rovers have found meteorites, Opportunity has identified rocks that match the composition of chunks of Mars that have been found on Earth, and Spirit has snapped dust devils whirling across the planet's surface.

In addition, Opportunity has sent back compelling evidence of Mars' watery past, including the tantalising possibility that the planet could once have basked in the conditions capable of sustaining microbial life. Spirit, too, has found evidence that water has altered the chemistry of the soil and rocks on the plateau it is exploring.

Most of the interest at the moment is focused on Opportunity as it continues its first steps into the Victoria Crater. At 800 metres wide, it's the largest crater the rover has encountered so far. Mission scientists hope the crater's walls will reveal even more secrets of the planet's past. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.