Mars Rovers Near Five Years of Science and Discovery
23 Jan 200923 Jan 2009 – 15 May 2009
By Václav Dajbych
None of the engineers who worked on Mars Exploration Rovers predicted both of them will be operating in 2009 – twenty times longer than the prime mission plan. The rovers have made discoveries about wet and sand storming climate on Mars. They relayed high quality images, driven over 21 kilometers, climbed a mountain, descended into craters and surveyed sandstorms.
Occasional cleaning of dust from the rover’s solar panels by strong wind has provided unanticipated aid to the vehicles condition. With rover’s energy rising for spring and summer, the team plans to drive into Goddard crater. “Goddard doesn’t look like an impact crater. We suspect it might be a volcanic explosion crater, and that's something we haven’t seen before,” said Steve Squyres of Cornell University. Second rover’s destination is Endeavour Crater. It is approximately 22 kilometers in diameter and 12 kilometers from another impact crater Victoria, where rover spent most of the past two years. “Once it seemed like a crazy idea to go to Endeavour, but now we're doing it,” said Frank Hartman, a JPL rover driver. High-resolution images from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which reached Mars in 2006, are helping the team plot routes around potential sand traps that were not previously discernable from orbit.