Mars Rovers Set to Break Red Planet Record

A historic milestone could be made on Mars this week.
On Thursday, NASA’s beleaguered Spirit rover could become the longest-running mission on the surface of Mars, surpassing the Viking 1 lander’s record of six years and 116 days of operation on the Martian surface — if it’s still alive, that is.
Spirit fell silent on Mars on March 31, when it skipped a planned communications session with Earth. It may be hibernating through the harsh Martian winter. But even if Spirit doesn’t survive, its robotic twin Opportunity is poised to break the Mars mission record in early May. Beating Viking’s record, which NASA set in the 1980s, would be a major feat for a rover the size of a golf cart that was only supposed to last for three months and spent the past year stuck in Martian sand. The milestone would also be a welcome surprise to the team of scientists and engineers that have been commanding Spirit for these past six years.