Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Martian Rovers Worth Every Penny

There is no doubt the robotic rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are well worth the cost to build, launch and operate them, simultaneously, on the surface of Mars. In fact, meant to last a mere 90 days they have outlasted their design specifications by about two years.

Check out this Space.com page devoted to the Red Planet Rovers.

Although in fairness, their endurance has been a stroke of luck. Scientists expected dust to collect on solar panels and eventually render both craft useless. But atmospheric conditions, specifically rampaging dust devils that have been swirling across the surface, have also been regularly cleaning those dirty panels, giving both craft a nightly recharge.

The wealth of data being provided by the rovers is enough to keep reporters writing, and researchers arguing, for years. And it's just the tip of the ice berg. The rovers show no sign of stopping, although Opportunity has a bad arm, the data stream has been uninterrupted.
And soon two more landers will join the search for information, and an orbiting probe will provide a data relay station to get us that information faster.

But perhaps the greatest contribution from the plucky roving-duo is the knowledge that despite a string of failures, yes, in fact, we can go to Mars and we can have success there.

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