Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Five Cheers for the Rovers

In January 2004 the plucky little rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on opposite sides of Mars, each with a planned three-month mission.

Mars_roverThey would roll over the planet’s surface, produce panoramic images of a depth and quality previously unseen from another planet, and provide us with invaluable knowledge about Martian geology and history, particularly the history of Martian water.

That original mission has long been accomplished and now, five years later they’re both still going.

Not necessarily going strong, because living way past their planned lifespan has led to a lot of wear and tear. But they’re still going.

This is a testament to what can be achieved when our desire for exploration and knowledge is harnessed.

800px-MarsPanoramaaWe are curious animals by nature and always looking for what’s around the corner. In times gone by we’ve been content to fill the gaps in our knowledge with superstitions and gods.

We don’t need to do that anymore.

Whether we’re looking outwards to space or into the smallest particles, we have the ability to not only formulate the questions, but also to find the answers.

They may be small, but the rovers represent one more step out into the Universe. And one more step on the path to our future among the stars.


Sarah said...

I read that one problem was that red Martian dust was building up on their solar panels so they weren't able to get as much power anymore. They need ickle windscreen wipers to keep the panels clear. Maybe for next time.

In Term 3 I'm teaching a module using Bradbury's Martian Chronicles and the NASA Mars website. It's going to be hella fun.