Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Spirit Remains Silent at Troy, Opportunity Explores Santa Maria

It's been seven years since the twin Martian rovers began their 90 day missions of exploration...

image courtesy of nasa.gov

Rover Opportunity will spend a couple months examining Santa Maria crater, some four miles from its next destination, Endeavor crater, where NASA hopes to find even more evidence of water in Mars' distant past.  As of New Year's Eve 2010 Opportunity's mission clock read 2466 Sols (Martian days, which are 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds in duration).

The rover Spirit got stuck in soft Martian sand in May of 2009 and hasn't been heard from since March of 2010.  Spirit made it 4.8 miles before loosing traction. 

As neat as all this is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (yes, the MRO) is sensitive enough to see the rovers from orbit.

To put this all in perspective, a mere 109 years after Marconi demonstrated the commercial utility of radio, and 107 years since the Wright Brothers first flight, we humans are using remotely controlled robots to explore other worlds and are watching other robots sailing out of the solar system at 10 miles a second.