Saturday, January 3, 2009

5 years on Mars and still going strong

On January 3, 2003, the Mars Exploration Rover (MER-A), a.k.a. "Spirit," landed on Mars, bouncing across Gusev crater in its airbag cocoon. The airbags retracted, and the tetrahedral lander opened up to reveal the rover. After about two weeks of checkouts, Spirit left her nest and headed out to explore.

Original mission objectives were for Spirit to last for 90 Mars days (Sols, equal to about 24-2/3 Earth hours). So far, she has survived 1,423 Sols and is still limping along. She has sent back tens of thousands of pictures during her journey. I enjoy keeping track of her progress via and the Mars Rovers home page.

Pictured is a really nice 1/18 scale die-cast model of the MER that was released shortly after the landings. It features folding solar panels and other movable parts, which include the high-gain antenna, camera mast and camera head, wheels, instrument deployment device, and rocker-bogie suspension. Its display base is the lander, opened up to prepare the rover for rolling off.

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