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Cover: Special-Effects Spirit on Husband Hill
view from Husband Hill features Clark Hill (to the left), the Meridiani
plains, and the far side of Gusev Crater.
scale model of the rover was added to Sprit's actual false-color image.
Sprit sol 454 2005.4.13
PIA03231 Credit: NASA/JPL-Solar System
January: HiRISE Spies a Rover
Opportunity finally arrived at the rim of Victoria crater, the newly
commissioned Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was ready to capture this
amazing image from orbit some 270 kilometers above.
color view, taken with the High Resolution Imaging Science
Experiment (HiRISE) instrument , has enough resolution to
distinguish objects only 80 centimeters across. The image is so
detailed that the shape of the camera bar at the top of
Opportunity's mast can be seen in its shadow, cast down and to the
right of the rover; in many places, the twin tracks of the rover's
wheels are visible as well.
Opportunity sol 957 2006.10.03
PIA08816 Credit: NASA/JPL/University of
February: “Creeping with awe to the verge ...”
finally reached Victoria Crater in September 2006, after traveling
almost 10 kilometers over 21 months.
approximately true color view, with an artist's concept of the rover
superimposed to give a sense of scale, looks north from "Duck Bay"
towards the dramatic cliff of layered rock called "Cape Verde." The
rim of the crater is composed of alternating promontories, rocky
points towering approximately 70 meters above the crater floor, and
recessed alcoves. The bottom of the crater is covered by sand that
has been shaped into ripples by the Martian wind. The vista extends
for more than 400 meters to the far side of the crater.
Opportunity sol 952 2006.9.28
PIA08814 Credit: NASA/JPL-Solar System Visualization
Quote: Dr. David Livingstone, on the discovery of Victoria
Falls, 151 years earlier (November, 1855).
March: Virtual Rover in the Berry Patch
photo-realistic, but false color, image shows what a Mars Exploration Rover
would look like on Mars.
The background image shows
soil, ancient rock and small spherules ("blueberries") inside Endurance
Crater. The hematite (iron oxide, or rust) blueberries aren’t really
blue – they’re actually grey – nor are they the size of blueberries –
they're only around 3 millimeters in diameter. The 2 meter high Opportunity rover is superimposed at
the correct scale. Dan Maas created the excruciatingly-detailed digital
model of the Mars rovers based on blueprints from NASA/JPL, including
virtually everything on the real rovers down to every last nut, bolt,
Opportunity sol 134 2004.6.09
ASU-IPF-2454 Image Credit: Mars Exploration Rover Mission, Cornell,
JPL, NASA; Rover Model: D. Maas; Synthetic Image: Z. Gorjian, K.
Kuramura, M. Stetson, E. De Jong
April: Opportunity in Purgatory
motoring across the Meridiani plain on its 446th sol, Opportunity ground
to a halt as it dug itself into what came to be called 'Purgatory Dune'.
elongated dune, or ripple, is about one-third of a meter tall and 2.5
meters wide. The colors in this vertical projection show the relative
elevations - red areas are about 70 centimeters higher than the green.
"All six wheels were just about completely buried," said MER Principal
Investigator Steve Squyres. Freeing the rover took more than five weeks
of planning, testing, and carefully monitored driving. The drivers
finally decided the best exit strategy was, as Squyres described it, to
"put it in reverse and gun it."
Opportunity sol 446 2005.4.26
PIA07922 Credit: NASA/JPL
May: Dunes and Outcrops on the Rim of Erebus
it crossed the Meridiani plains, Opportunity paused for this
self-portrait at the rim of the wide but shallow "Erebus" crater.
The false-color image emphasizes differences in composition
among the finely-layered outcrop rocks, wind ripples, and small cobbles
and grains. The same view is shown at left in approximate true color but
as a polar projection. The outcrop is crisscrossed by small troughs only
inches deep, which the team's geologists determined could not have been
formed by wind erosion or volcanism. The only possibility, they
concluded, was that they were created by flowing water in the far
distance past, 2 billion or more years ago, when Mars might - just might
- have been warm and wet.
Opportunity sol 652-663 2005.11.23
June: King of the (Husband) Hill
This approximate true color picture is a small part of the 360 degree
"Everest Panorama" from the summit of Husband Hill. Sprit’s meandering,
crisscrossing wheel tracks trace its route across this broad plateau of
rock outcrops and windblown drifts. Near the center of the picture, a
dust devil swoops across the plains of Gusev Crater, about 100 meters
Spirit sol 581 2005.8.21
July: El Dorado's Frozen Ripples
is an exaggerated false color rendering of the "El Dorado" dunes, a
field of dark, rippled sand that is visible from space as a dark spot on
the side of Husband Hill. Analysis showed the wind-blown sand is
unusually "well-sorted, well-rounded and olivine rich." The waves don't
change much over time, but their color and brightness do change as dust
is blown off or accumulated. The inset image above shows the approximate
Sol 708-710 2005.12.30
Sol708A_P2267_L257F Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell - Image mosaicking:
Pancam team (Jim Bell) - Calibration and color rendering: CCC and the
Pancam team (Jim Bell) - Enhanced colors and sky rendering: Eric
August: The Red, Red Hills of Mars
exaggerated, false color view from the crest of Husband Hill overlooks
the Columbia Hills and the surrounding plains of Gusev Crater, about 100
meters below. The inner basin area contains a broad range of interesting
geological targets, including the dark, circular feature dubbed "Home
Plate". The rocks and geologic characteristics of Home Plate, probably
an eroded-over volcano, are like no others found by either rover so far.
Spirit Sol 592-598 2005.9.2 Raw images: NASA/JPL; Panorama by
Midnight Mars Browser; Image and color enhancement by Eric Hartwell
September: Rover on the Half-Pipe: Opportunity at Burns Cliff
Burns Cliff is an exposure of bedrock and ejecta on the southern rim of
meteorite impact broke up the bedrock, creating the ejecta blocks at the
top of the wall. The blocks were then weathered by sand, wind and water,
suggesting that the Meridiani area was covered by a shallow sea or lake
that went through wet and dry episodes. This is an approximate
true color image, with a virtual Opportunity rover superimposed to
scale, based on the size of the rover tracks.
Opportunity sol 298-294 2004.11.13
NASA/JPL-Solar System Visualization Team
October: Endurance Crater’s Dazzling Dunes
exaggerated false-color view shows the dune field at the bottom of
dust (a lighter color) accumulates near the dune crests, while
hematite-rich spherules (which appear blue in this scene), tend to rest
in troughs with more gradual slopes. Sinuous tendrils of sand less than
1 meter high extend from the main dune field toward the rover.
Opportunity sol 211 2004.8.27
Sol211B_P2424_L257F Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell - Mosaicking: Pancam
team (J.R. Skok, Jim Bell) - Calibration & color rendering: CCC and
Pancam team (Jim Bell)
November: Sunset from Low Ridge
spectacular field of sand ripples separates Spirit from the slopes
of Husband Hill. The rover arrived at this position on "Low Ridge"
some 200 sols after it started its descent from the peak. Looking
back to the north, Spirit acquired this panorama while the Sun was
low in the sky late in the afternoon. Approximate true color for the
landscape was added from the McMurdo Panorama, PIA08527, and for the
sky from the sunset view, PIA07997.
Spirit sol 813 2006.4.17
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Eric Hartwell
December: A Moment Frozen in Time
captured this stunning view as the Sun sank below the rim of Gusev
crater some 80 km away. Spirit
was commanded to stay awake briefly after sending that sol's data to the
Mars Odyssey orbiter just before sunset. Because Mars is farther from
the Sun than the Earth is, the Sun appears only about two-thirds the
size that it appears in a sunset seen from the Earth. The colors are as
close as possible to what a human would see.
Spirit sol 489
2005.5.19 PIA07997 Credit: NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell
About the Mars Exploration Rovers
The names for the
Exploration Rovers - Spirit and Opportunity - were
selected from nearly 10,000 entries in a contest sponsored by
NASA, the Lego Company, and the Planetary Society. 9-year-old Sofi Collis, in the winning essay, wrote, "In America, I can
make all my dreams come true. Thank you for the 'Spirit' and the
The two identical rovers were originally
thought to be able to trek up to 100 meters a day ("sol") across
the martian surface, but on March 31, 2005 Opportunity traveled
a distance of 220 metersin a single day. This is farther than
the 1997 Mars Pathfinder rover Sojourner''s travel throughout
its entire mission. Each rover carries a sophisticated set of
instruments – the Athena Science Payload – that has allowed it
to search for evidence of liquid water in the planet's past.
On June 10, 2003, the first Mars Exploration Rover (MER)
spacecraft Spirit was launched on a Delta II rocket from Cape
Canaveral, Florida. After a seven month flight, it entered the
martian atmosphere in January 3, 2004. The second lander and
rover, Opportunity, followed on January 24.
The rovers each had
a spectacular landing, similar to that of the Pathfinder
spacecraft. After entering the atmosphere, the rovers deployed
their parachutes and airbags, hitting the surface with enough
force to bounce back up a hundred feet in the martian air. After
finally settling down, the lander petals opened to reveal the
rovers folded inside like origami. The rovers had to unfold
themselves carefully, deploying their camera masts, antennae,
wheels, and solar arrays.
The landing portion of the mission featured a design that is
dramatically different from that of Mars Pathfinder. Where
Pathfinder had a lander and the small Sojourner rover, each MER
spacecraft carried just a large, long-range rover. The rover has
a mass of nearly 180 kilograms (about 380 pounds).
Each rover can take a 360-degree visible color and infrared
image panorama. Athena scientists can choose rock and soil
targets and command the rovers to explore their surroundings.
The landers have long since been left behind, as both Spirit and
Opportunity have searched out enticing clues in the soil.
rover reaches a target, its multi-jointed arm deploys and the
target is examined with a microscope and two spectrometers. The
"RAT" (Rock Abrasion Tool) is used to expose fresh rock surfaces
for study. Images and spectra of interesting rocks and soils are
It was originally believed that the rovers would
only have the solar power capability to last for around 90 sols,
or the early summer of 2004, but regular "cleaning events" and
careful maneuvering have allowed them to continue for more than
a martian year (670 sols).
Image and Text Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
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