The Mars rovers were launched from Earth on 10 June and 7 July 2003. It took them nearly six months to reach Mars. The first rover, named Spirit, landed on 4 January 2004. Three weeks later, on 25 January 2004, the second rover, Opportunity landed on Mars.
This picture shows the heat shield that Opportunity used to help land.
Hole in one
This is one of the first images captured by Opportunity. It showed scientists that they had landed in the middle of a small crater. Scientists were very excited and said it was like scoring a ‘hole-in-one’. The hole that formed the this crater allowed the rover and its scientists to see rocks that they would normally have to dig for.
Spirit and Opportunity were designed to last a total of 90 sols. It was thought that dust landing on the rover’s solar panels would block out the Sun, and because Mars is colder than your freezer, it computers may be frozen. Amazingly, both rovers have survived much longer.
If you landed on Mars and looked out from the top of a hill, this is what you may see. The Spirit rover took three days to take this 360 degree panorama.
Tracks in the sand
Late last year the Mars rovers completed one Martian year on the red planet and have each travelled more than five kilometres. This may not seem very far, but remember, they both drive themselves and have no one to help them if they get stuck or break down.
A view from the ridge
After its long climb up ‘Husband Hill’, the Spirit rover turned around to llok back at where it came from. Scientists have named the region below ‘Tennessee Valley’
This synthetic (made-up) image, shows the Spirit rover as it would appear when it took the Tennessee Valley photo.
Earth from Mars
What would Earth look like to a ‘Martian’? The Opportunity rover took this photo of our tiny blue planet in the evening sky. Isn’t it amazing that more than six billion people fit on that tiny blue dot?
How long is a Martian year?
A year is the time it takes for a planet to complete one orbit (lap) around the Sun. On Earth this is 365 (and a quarter) days. Because Mars is further away from the Sun than the Earth, it takes 668.5 days to complete an orbit. A Martian year is 668.5 sols.
A sol? What is a sol?
A sol is another word for a Martian day. A day is the time it takes for a planet to rotate. On Earth it is close to 24 hours. On Mars it is 24 hours and 39 minutes.
The Spirit rover took this view of a Martian sunset. Unlike a sunset on Earth, the sky appears blue close to the Sun.