The Martian Marathon

The Spirit rover was nominally slated for a ninety-day surface mission and just surpassed the 180-day mark, effectively doubling its lifespan with no signs of letting up mechanically. Lagging only by three weeks, the Opportunity rover continues its exploration on the opposite side of the planet. Both rovers have set marathon records as the science images profiled here illustrate their ongoing adventures. Spirit roams the foot of Columbia Hills, while Opportunity descends the steep walls of Endurance Crater.


squyres NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit took this image with its front hazard-avoidance camera on sol 175 (June 30, 2004). It captures the instrument deployment device in perfect position as the rover uses its microscopic imager to get an up-close look at the rock target "Bread-Basket." Credit: NASA/JPL

See Spirit’s images and slideshow

This panoramic camera image from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been processed using a technique known as a decorrelation stretch to exaggerate the colors. The area in the image includes three holes created inside "Endurance Crater" by Opportunity’s rock abrasion tool between sols 143 and 148 (June 18 and June 23, 2004). Because color variations are so subtle in the pictured area, stretched images are useful for discriminating color differences that can alert scientists to compositional and textural variations. For example, without the exaggeration, no color difference would be discernable among the tailings left behind after the grinding of these holes, but in this stretched image, the tailings around "London" (top) appear more red than those of the other holes ("Virginia," middle, and "Cobble Hill," bottom). Scientists believe that is because the rock abrasion tool sliced through two "blueberries," or spherules (visible on the upper left and upper right sides of the circle). When the blades break up these spherules, composed of mostly gray hematite, the result is a bright red powder. In this image, you can see the rock layers that made the team want to grind holes in each identified layer. The top layer is yellowish red, the middle is yellowish green and the lower layer is green. Another advantage to viewing this stretched image is the clear detail of the distribution of the rock abrasion tool tailings (heading down-slope) and the differences in rock texture. This image was created using the 753-, 535- and 432-nanometer filters. Credit: NASA/JPL squyres
squyres This false-color image shows the area inside "Endurance Crater" that the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been examining. The rover is currently investigating the distinct layers of rock that make up this region. Each layer is defined by subtle color and texture variations and represents a separate chapter in Mars’ history. The deeper the layer, the farther back in time the rocks were formed. Scientists are "reading" this history book by systematically studying each layer with the rover’s scientific instruments. So far, data from the rover indicates that the top layers are sulfate-rich, like the rocks observed in "Eagle Crater." This image was taken on sol 134 (June 9, 2004) by Opportunity’s panoramic camera with the 750-, 530- and 430-nanometer filters. Credit: NASA/JPL
This image taken by the hazard-avoidance camera on sol 137 (June 12, 2004) shows the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity’s rear view from its new position about 5 meters (16.4 feet) inside "Endurance Crater." The rover is currently investigating a flat rock dubbed, "Tennessee," which scientists believe may be made up of the same evaporite-rich materials as those found in "Eagle Crater." Credit: NASA/JPL

See Opportunity image gallery and slideshow



MER flight planning chronicled in the diary of the principal investigator for the science packages, Dr. Steven Squyres: Parts 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 * 7 * 8 * 9 * 10 * 11 * 12 .

Related Web Pages

Mars Rovers JPL
Spirit’s images and slideshow
Opportunity image gallery and slideshow
Mars Berries Once Rich in Iron-Water
NASA’s RATs Go Roving on Mars

Water Signs
Microscopic Imager
Gusev Crater
Pancam– Surveying the Martian Scene
Mössbauer spectrometer
Alpha Proton X-ray Spectrometer