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10 Cool Facts About The Mars Spirit Rover

10 Cool Facts About The Mars Spirit Rover

The Mars Spirit Rover is a computerized device operated by NASA which was sent to conduct a scientific exploration on planet Mars.

It first landed on the planet on January 4, 2004 (at a longitude and latitude of 14.5684 degrees South and 175.4726 degrees East). This was just three weeks before Opportunity Rover landed on the same planet.

The Mars Spirit Rover’s unique name was chosen through a student essay competition sponsored by NASA. It’s also referred to as MER-A or MER-2 (acronym for Mars Exploration Rover).

According to NASA, Mars Spirit Rover got stuck towards the end of the year 2009, and the last time scientists on Earth communicated with it was on March 22, 2010.

There are several interesting facts about Mars Spirit Rover, here are the 10 Cool Facts About the Mars Spirit Rover.

Mars Spirit Rover Fact #10: Eight Mission Impossibles

The Mars Spirit Rover was sent to Mars to fulfill 8 main objectives. They are as follows:

 

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Mars Spirit Rover Objective 1: Look for and differentiate a wide range of soils and rocks that would help scientists in determining activity of water in the past. The samples would also consist of minerals that were deposited by processes related to water, e.g. precipitation, hydrothermal activity, evaporation and sedimentary cementation.

Mars Spirit Rover Objective 2: Establish the composition and distribution of minerals, soils and rocks.

Mars Spirit Rover Objective 3: Determine the specific geological processes that shaped the terrain and also influenced the chemistry on Mars, e.g. wind/water erosion, volcanism, sedimentation and hydrothermal mechanisms.

Mars Spirit Rover Objective 4: Carry out validation and calibration of surface observations that were previously made by MRO instruments (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter).

Mars Spirit Rover Objective 5: Search for any minerals containing iron, and also identify and measure amounts of minerals that contain water/ formed in water.

Mars Spirit Rover Objective 6: Differentiate textures and mineralogy of soils and rocks, and also establish the processes that formed them.

Mars Spirit Rover Objective 7: Look for geological evidence to the environmental states that existed when water was still present.

Mars Spirit Rover Objective 8: Evaluate if the environmental conditions could/can support life.

Mars Spirit Rover Fact #9: Futuristic Scientific Instruments

The rover was fixed with 4 main advanced scientific instruments;

1.      Panoramic Camera (PanCam)

2.      Two Black and White Hazcams

3.      One Navigation Camera (NavCam)

4.      Mini-TES (Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer).

A Panoramic Camera usually assists scientists in examining the texture, structure, color and mineralogy of a terrain, while the black and white Hazman provides additional data on the environment surrounding the rover.

 

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The Navigation Camera aids in driving and navigation, whereas the Mini-TES assists in the identification of valuable soils and rocks.

The rover was also fitted with five other special instruments;

  1. Mossbauer Spectrometer
  2. Rock Abrasion Tool
  3. ASXS (Alpha Particle Xray Spectrometer)
  4. Microscopic Imager and Several Magnets.

Mars Spirit Rover Fact #8: Your Mission, If You Choose to Accept

The Mars Spirit Rover’s primary surface mission was intended to last for just about 90 days. However, the mission was granted several extensions and thus lasted for just about 2,208 days.

On August 11, 2007, the rover got the 2nd longest extension on the planet’s surface, with an impressive 1,282 additional days. This was much longer than what was obtained by the Viking II. The Viking II was power-driven by a nuclear cell, Mars Spirit Rover was/is powered by solar rays.

 

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On March 22, 2010, the Spirit Rover sent communication to Earth for the last time, just before surpassing the operational record of Viking I. As of March 22, 2010, it had recorded nearly 5 miles on its odometer.

Mars Spirit Rover Fact #7: A Tailored Space Suit

The Mars Spirit Rover was specially designed as a solar-powered device with six wheels. It had the following dimensions;

·        Height: 4.9 feet

·        Width: 7.5 feet

·        Length: 5.2 feet

·        Weight: 400 lbs

The six wheels were mounted onto a special rocker-bogie system to facilitate mobility over rough terrain and each of the wheels operate with its own motor.

 

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The Spirit Rover could be steered form both ends (front and rear) and could safely tilt at an angle of 30 degrees. It has an average speed of 0.39 inches per second and a maximum speed of 2 inches per second.

Mars Spirit Rover Fact #6: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

The Spirit Rover has taken several priceless pictures while on Mars and has successfully sent them back to Earth. The pictures have assisted scientists in examining the texture, structure, color and mineralogy of Mars’ terrain.

 

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The pictures also aided in the identification of valuable soils and rocks and in obtaining additional data on the environment surrounding the Spirit Rover.

Since its landing on Mars, Spirit has sent 128,224 pictures back to Earth.

Mars Spirit Rover Fact #5: A Round of Applause

Many people and organizations across the world have greatly appreciated the contributions made by the Mars Spirit Rover as far as the exploration of planet Mars is concerned.

 

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For example, the 37452 asteroid has been named after it after a proposal by Ingrid H. (one of the scientists who discovered the asteroid).

Liberty Science Center produced a documentary by the name Roving Mars, which highlights the journey made by Spirit using actual and computer generated imagery.

Mars Spirit Rover Fact #4: Failure is Actually an Option

Since Spirit has outlived its expected mission time that was supposed to last for only 90 days; the additional stress has resulted in failure and also wear and tear of several pieces of equipment.

On March 13, 2006, one of the front wheels stopped working and this forced engineers to change their navigation techniques dramatically.

 

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Additionally, scientific equipment contained in the Mars Spirit Rover also started degrading and breaking down because of the extended mission time and harsh environmental conditions.

Mars Spirit Rover Fact #3: A Phobian Night to Remember

The Mars Spirit Rover took pictures of the great Deimos from Mars transition. It’s also responsible for taking the first external picture of Earth from another planet.

 

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In 2005, the Mars Spirit Rover took advantage of a certain situation to take several pictures of both Phobos and Deimos, the Moons on Mars. The pictures included a Phobian Eclipse during the disappearance of Phobos into Mar’s shadow.

Mars Spirit Rover Fact #2: Minerals on the Rocks, Please

The Spirit Rover’s exploration on Mars led to the discovery of unique basalt rocks on the Gusev plains.

 

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The rocks consist of vesicles and contain minerals such as; olivine, magnetite, pyroxene and plagioclase.

Mars Spirit Rover Fact #1: No Extension Dysfunction Here

Mars Spirit Rover safely landed on Mars on January 4, 2004 and was only supposed to last for 90 solar days (equivalent to 92 Earth days).

 

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However, the mission timelines were extended mainly because of unexpected solar cell cleaning occurrences. Eventually, the mission lasted for 2,208 solar days.

 

Featured Image: By NASA/JPL/Cornell University, Maas Digital LLC – http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA04413 (image link), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=565283

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