Sunday, June 05, 2005

Rover 'Opportunity' is free

The Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have been huge, huge successes. Landing on Mars in January 2004, they were projected for 3-month missions of exploration. To lob a machine that complex between planets, have them land in a pile of air bags, then have all of their experiment packages work as advertised was victory enough. When they both completed their 3-month tours and kept right on going, that was just stellar.

It's June 2005, and they're both still going.

Opportunity ran into a snag 5 weeks ago, unfortunately. Trying to climb over a sand dune, it got stuck in the sand. For days the team tried to get it out of there with no success. This morning, Fox News is reporting they finally managed to get it back on the road:

::::::::The Mars rover Opportunity resumed rolling freely across the Martian surface Saturday after scientists freed it from a sand dune where it had been mired for nearly five weeks, NASA officials said.

Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the mission, cheered when images beamed back to Earth showed the rover's wheels were free.

For all the badmouthing NASA gets, this set of missions has gone remarkably well. The home page for the project shows the locations of both rovers and some highlights from their imagery. I especially like the "dust devil" captured on camera by Spirit.