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Parihaka
29 Sep 06,, 02:56
Considering these machines were designed to have a 9 month life span, the fact they're still rolling on is just amazing.


Mars rover reaches edge of 1-km-wide crater

Updated Thu. Sep. 28 2006 2:14 PM ET

Brian Jackson, DiscoveryChannel.ca

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity has reached its gigantic destination after 21 months of travel.

It sits on the precipice of Victoria Crater, the largest such landform it has yet encountered on the Red Planet.

Victoria is five times wider than Endurance Crater, which Opportunity spent six months exploring.

A photo showing the rover's first glimpse into the crater's depths reveals bare, exposed, rocky walls surrounding a sandy bottom shaped into various dunes and ripples. Rocky peaks reaching 70 metres high mark the crater's edge.

Overjoyed at arrival

"This is a geologist's dream come true," says rover mission principal investigator Steve Squyres in a release. "Those layers of rock, if we can get to them, will tell us new stories about the environmental conditions long ago."

Thus far, the Mars rovers' prize achievement has been the confirmation that large amounts of water once existed on Mars. Now that Opportunity is rolling to greater depths, it can delve further back into the planet's geological history. That includes finding out how long water existed on the now-desert planet.

Extreme overtime

Many scientists have been surprised at the rovers' long life and usefulness. Both Opportunity and its twin Spirit landed on Mars in early 2004 and are both still rolling.

Their original lifespans were 90 days each.

Most important mission yet

Some scientists are calling Victoria the most important part of the mission. But NASA will have to work quickly to get started.

Mars will be on the opposite side of the Sun - relative to Earth - for much of October. That will make radio communication with the rovers difficult.

highsea
29 Sep 06,, 18:17
Considering these machines were designed to have a 9 month life span, the fact they're still rolling on is just amazing.A 3 month lifespan!

It is amazing- they are about 900 days past their warranty period. They've got a combined 10 miles on their odometers. :)

hello
30 Sep 06,, 02:54
Their original mission was 3 months, but they've done 7 times longer and can go at least another year. Here's another article (http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Mars-Rovers.html?_r=1&ref=science&oref=slogin) on it. The only main glitch is that Spirit's lost a wheel. However, Pathfinder Sojourner was planned to stay 3 weeks, but lasted for 3 months. But still, 83 sols is nothing to 954(Oppurtunity) and 974(Spirit) and going.

dalem
30 Sep 06,, 06:03
Remember that the Galileo probe also kept going and going and going until they finally forced it into Jupiter's atmosphere. Gotta admire the engineers who sweated on these things.

-dale