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Spirit of Mars: A Rover's Tale

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

#14 Science in History

03 January 2004

On this day in 2004, Spirit successfully lands on Mars.

The Mars rover ‘Spirit’ was sent to explore the planet Mars as part of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission. The rover was launched on June 10, 2003, and landed on Mars on January 3, 2004. Spirit was one of two rovers that were sent to Mars as part of the MER mission, the other being its twin, Opportunity.

Spirit's main function was to search for evidence of water that may have once existed on the planet, as well as to study the rock and soil composition of the planet. It was also the first rover to use a robotic arm to place scientific instruments directly onto the Martian surface.

The piece with the American flag is made of aluminium recovered from the World Trade Centre "Ground Zero"

Over the course of its mission, Spirit travelled over 4.8 miles (7.73 km) across the surface of Mars, exploring a variety of different geological features and terrains.

After operating on the Martian surface for over six years, the rover began to experience problems with its wheels and was no longer able to move. Despite efforts by NASA engineers to fix the problem, Spirit was eventually declared "dead" in March 2010. It had solidly performed for over 74 months, more than 25 times its original intended lifetime.

All images: Wikipedia, public domain.


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