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The tale of two cities . . . .Opportunity and Spirit on Mars

The Mars Exploration Rovers are among the most successful missions ever flown.   Both rovers are still operating after 5 years on Mars,
which is a bit more than the 3 months of planned operations.   Both Rovers have changed the face of Mars for ever, they have transmitted amazingly
detailed pictures and science telemetry.  They have found on the ground evidence of large amounts of surface water on Mars. 

There are two rovers sent to mars, MER 1 and MER 2, better known as Spirit and Opporunity.   In June and July 2003 Spirit and Opportunity left Earth on their way to Mars.
 The goals for both of these identical rovers is to look for evidence of water having been present on Mars in the past.
  
Spirit landed first in Gusev crater
on January 4, 2004.   Gusev was chosen because orbital visual pictures and MOLA pictures show what appears to be an inflow channel at the southern end of the crater.  From space
it appears to have been a crater lake.  The MOLA picture below show the location and appearance of the crater.   Spirit landed just west of
 Columbia Hills, as they are now known, which is an uplift in the approximate middle of the crater.   Spirit has navigated its local area and when
into the "hills" on an amazing five year journey, which is still going on.  Opporunity landed at Meridiani Planum in Eagle Crater on January 25th, which is an
equatorial landing site just east of the Valles Marineris complex.   This site has some of the highlights of both mission.  The best place I have found for
 the details of the mission is the press site for NASA at
http://marsrovers.nasa.gov/home/index.html      This site has all of the press releases since the January 2004 landings.

MER Landing sites
landingsite.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL
MOLA view of MARS - Gusev near the bottom
landingsite.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL
MOLA - Gusev Close up - notice outflow channel
gusevclose.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL
Gusev - visual picture from orbit
gusevclose.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL
HIGHLIGHTS AND FINDINGS:

SPIRIT:

Spirit landed in the middle of Gusev crater.  After an intial inspection of the landing site, it appeared to be basaltic in nature, not evidince of water
created geology.   In the distance are Columbia Hills, so it was decided that a trek to the hills would be the best place to find something interesting.
 
The Spirit landing site was christened Columbia Memorial Station, Opporuntity's landing site is called Challenger Memorial Station
Wheels dig up silica- McCool- evidence of water?
mccool.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
Dirt devil - twister on Mars
mccool.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
Spirit Landing site - first view
mccool.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

Opportunity:

Opporunity was well named, NASA hit a plantary hole in one by rolling in the bottom of a shallow crater, dubbed Eagle Crater after Apollo 11.  
This crater had exposed sedimentary rock.   Some of the first pictures showed this wall, the rover did investigate close up with the RAT and Mossbauer spectrometer.  
The other finding in Eagle crater were thousands of what turned out to be hematite sphericals, called blueberries.   These are formed in sediments when the water evaporates,
 hematite precipates out.  As the sediment erodes, the blueberries are what is left.   The appear to be everywhere at Meridini Planum.

Panorama of Eagle Crater
01mw01labelsB041R1.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
Panorama of Eagle Crater from the Mast Camera
eagletraverse.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

From Eagle Crater Opportunity traversed first to Endurance Crater and the then south to the spectacluar Victoria Crater.   The pics from Victoria Crater are
some of the most breath taking off world pictures I have seen.  It's just like being there.

Edurance Crater traverse map by Sol
endurancetrack.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
Burns Cliff - from inside Endurance
opportunityburncliffinendurance.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
Endurance Crater from the Deck of Opportunity
opportunityburncliffinendurance.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
Victoria Crater - the destination
victoriacrater2.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
Victoria Crater - the journey from Endurance
victoriacrater2.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
Duck Bay - the entry to Victoria Crater
duckbayvictoria.jpg
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

Cape St Mary - Victoria Crater
119810972098284Sol1213BCapeStMarySuperres4x.jpg
Credit:: NASA/JPL/Cornell

Cape St Mary - Victoria Crater
119810972098284Sol1213BCapeStMarySuperres4x.jpg
Credit:: NASA/JPL/Cornell

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