The Mars Exploration Rovers Opportunity and Spirit, which first touched
down on the Martian surface within two weeks of each other in January
2004, are still going strong.
Putting even the Eveready Energizer Bunnies to shame, the rovers have
now exceeded their life expectancy by 150 times. They were not expected
to last longer than 90 days.
There has been some wear and tear on the rovers. Back in April 2005,
Opportunity got stuck in a sand dune and had to be slowly and carefully
moved out of it. Spirit has suffered damage to one of its wheels and can
now only drive backwards. The grinding tool on the rovers is completely
worn down and the Thermal Spectrometer has been turned off due to dust
contamination in the optics. Both rovers have survived major dust storms
and Martian winters, both of which reduce the amount of light and dangerously
deplete the rovers' power supply.
The rovers received major software upgrades in January 2007. The new
upgrades make the rovers more independent in the decision-making
process, saving NASA scientists time and also reducing the rovers' work
load for any one task. NASA also has the advantage now of being able to
coordinate the rovers with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which makes
tasking the rovers' paths over the terrain much easier.
NASA scientists also think that the two rovers may be in very good position
to photograph and perhaps analyze the possible asteroid impact that may
occur on Mars in January.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Old rovers should rage at end of day.
(Martian sunset over crater Gusev.)