In January 2004, two robotic geologists called Spirit and Opportunity, within the NASA Mars Exploration Rover mission, landed on opposite sides of the red planet, thus taking another step in the exploration of Mars.
This mission, which is part of the NASA Mars Exploration Program, includes the three previous successful landing modules: the two Viking Program modules and the Mars Pathfinder.
With much greater mobility than the Mars Pathfinder rover of 1997, these new rovers have traveled many kilometers along the Martian surface with the aim of investigating a series of soils and rocks that appear to contain clues about water activity on Mars.
Since they landed on the surface of the red planet, the two vehicles together have sent to Earth more than 100,000 high-resolution color images of the surface of Mars, as well as various detailed microscopic images of the rocks and the surface.
What have the Martian rovers discovered?
Four different spectrometers have accumulated unprecedented information about the chemical and mineralogical composition of rocks and Martian soil. In addition, special rock abrasion tools, which had never been sent to another planet before, have allowed scientists to look beneath the dusty surface of eroded rocks to examine their interior.
The study conducted by the Opportunity rover on the Endurance and Eagle craters has revealed evidence of former lakes that evaporated and are now a sulfate-rich sandy surface. For its part, the initial investigation of the Spirit in the Gusev crater revealed the existence of a more basaltic environment, after reaching those known as "Columbia Hills". There the rover found a great variety of rocks that indicate that primitive Mars was characterized by impacts, explosive volcanism and groundwater.
Both rovers have provided substantial evidence of water activity on the planet in the past throughout their mission, which has led to significant progress in the exploration of Mars.
Two and a half years have passed since the landing, but both rovers are still working and have far exceeded the initial 90-day Mars mission of the Mars Exploration Rover.
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