Staying true to its name, Spirit, the Mars Exploration Rover, reached its destination on 10th August, 2011. NASA released a number of images that Spirit and its sister rover, Opportunity, snapped during their stay on the Red Planet. Among these images are landscape shots of the Endeavour crater, the climax of the three year journey.
We bring you a few of the photos that NASA released in this article.
Endeavour is a 22 kilometer crater, about 25 times wider than the Victoria crater, which was the crater visited by Opportunity earlier. The rocks from Endeavour crater are expected to be much older than the rocks encountered so far on Mars. The examination of these could give vital clues to a much wetter and warmer Martian past.
Photos reveal apparently clay-like soil composition and this has got Mars experts excited. Clay can only form in wet conditions, signifying occurrence of habitable environment in the distant past.
Spirit has been hobbling, or rather dragging, for a couple of years. Its left wheel isn’t working and it drags it along, creating distinctive tracks.
The right wheel leaves the familiar tyre tracks on the dusty ground, while the left wheel digs up the surface, revealing fresh soil from just below the surface.
Of course, Spirit can also photograph its own arm!
Spirit and Opportunity has yielded a great host of scientific data on Mars, especially for determining soil composition. It has also found meteorites.
NASA already has a successor of Spirit and Opportunity ready. Curiosity, the new rover, to be launched in a few months, will be parachuted on the Gale Crater. In its scientific arsenal will be sensitive instruments mainly to measure chemical composition and do spectroscopic studies on samples.
It’s a proper transition. In any scientific endeavour, it is the spirit and opportunities that lead to discoveries. These discoveries fire curiosity enough to ensure that the flagship of science stays at full steam.
Image Credits for all images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU/