The golf cart-size Spirit rover is off and rolling around Mars trying to figure out if it landed in a sort of ancient water hazard. Its twin, Opportunity, is on course to plop down Saturday on the opposite side of the planet and do the same. Mission scientists are so giddy you’d think they just shot a hole-in-one. But the Mars Exploration Rovers Mission, or MER as some call it, has nothing to do with golf. The mission team is excited because they finally get to take a shot at what they’ve practiced for years: science on the red planet.
Second Rover to Join Spirit on Mars This Weekend National Geographic News
Spacecraft Draw Closer to Mars National Geographic News
Spacecraft from three different space missions are drawing closer to Mars. Over the next six weeks, landers and rovers are scheduled to touch down on the red planet’s surface. Together with orbiting spacecraft, the probes will poke, scratch, sniff, and image the Martian environment for clues to the existence of past or present life. Mission scientists will clear a significant hurdle to see their spacecraft simply reach Mars.
Astronomers Ready for Close Encounter of a Mars Kind National Geographic News
On August 27, the orbits of Earth and Mars will bring the two planets the closest they have been in nearly 60,000 years. For the weeks surrounding this celestial event, the red planet will be the brightest star in the night sky. Precisely 34,646,418 miles (55,758,006 kilometers) will separate Earth and Mars during the event. Mars won’t approach the Earth as closely again for another 284 years, at which time it will approach even closer, according to astronomers.
NASA’s Mars “Odyssey” Craft Relays First Image National Geographic News
NASA scientists are studying the first picture of the red planet beamed down from the Mars Odyssey spacecraft. The test thermal image shows a 1,300-mile-wide (2,400-kilometer-wide) swath of the south pole, including portions of its frozen cap of water and carbon dioxide ice.