Eleven years ago today—in fact, at this very minute (12:05 am ET)—NASA's Opportunity rover touched down on Mars for what was supposed to be a 90-day mission. Since then, Opportunity has proven to be an engineering marvel by traveling almost 26 miles on the Martian surface, more than any other off-Earth surface vehicle.
On January 4, 2004, the first of two identical robotic exploratory rovers, NASA's Spirit, snapped this stunning 360 degree image of its surroundings, moments after setting down on Mars. In the years to follow, both Spirit and its sister Opportunity helped revolutionize our understanding of the Red Planet.
When NASA's Opportunity rover launched on July 7th, 2003, expectations were modest. It would spend 90 Martian days exploring soil and rock samples and taking panoramas of the Red Planet; anything else would be a bonus. Nearly ten years after its initial shift was up, Opportunity is still going strong.
This fall, Nasa will launch its latest Mars rover dubbed "Curiosity" to further the Red Planet exploration done by Spirit and Opportunity. The differences? This one is the size of a compact car, shoots lasers and runs on nuclear power.
Years after the sad death of Phoenix, the Mars Rover Spirit has been officially declared dead too. Right before his demise, the brave little robot sent us his last view as his systems powered down forever. This is his last vision.
Although it might seem like a headline from The Onion, the story's actually true. NASA's being forced to cut four million dollars from the Mars rover project. In order to meet that requirement, they'll have to put one rover, Spirit, to sleep — a "hibernation" period. The team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) will…