The Rover Missions
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The Mars Exploration Rover mission is an ongoing mission that involved two rovers named Spirit and Opportunity. The mission began in 2003 and the first rover, Spirit, landed on January 4, 2004. Its twin brother, Opportunity, landed 3 weeks later on January 25. 2004. The two rovers landed on opposite sides of the planet and both have continued to function over thirteen times longer than NASA had predicted. Their mission is still going, allowing the rovers to continue its study on Martian rocks and the geological features of Mars.
But before I go on, allow me to explain what a “rover” is. A rover is a vehicle used for space exploration. They are designed to move across the surface of a planet or any other similar astronomical body. Some have been designed to carry humans and others have just been designed as robots. Most rovers usually arrive at their destinations on spacecraft called Landers. Spirit and Opportunity landed with the help of a Lander.
Spirit (and its twin, Opportunity) is a six-wheeled rover and is solar powered. Each wheel has its own motor and its max speed is about 2 inches per second. It is also equipped with a panoramic camera, a navigation camera, and a mini-TES (Thermal Emission Spectrometer. The rovers arm also holds magnets and cameras for closer pictures. The rovers are powered by the Sun during the day and have rechargeable lithium batteries for night.
Both rovers were intended to last only 90 sols, which is the Martian unit for days. They have been working ever since, but without running into some difficulties along the way. Towards the end of June, 2007, there have been a couple of dust storms clouding the Martian atmosphere. The clouds blotted out the sun causing the rovers to not get enough sunlight, which would result in system failure. Opportunity was getting only about 1 percent of direct sunlight, whereas Spirit was getting only a little bit more. The dust storms began to settle in early August and the rovers have been put in hibernation to recharge their batteries.
Amongst the many discoveries that these two rovers have made, one notable one is the discovery of “Humphrey”, a rock, by Spirit. The rock is very similar to a volcanic rock on earth that had a little bit of fluid running through it. Its twin Opportunity, mad a similar discovery with rocks that looked like they had crystallized minerals in them. If they actually are minerals, then that means that they were