Mission(s) to Mars
Mission to Mars 1 - The Big Bounce
Spirit, MER-A (Mars Exploration Rover - A), is a robotic rover on Mars, active from 2004 to 2010. It was one of two rovers of NASA's ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission. It landed successfully on Mars on January 4, 2004, three weeks before its twin, Opportunity (MER-B), landed on the other side of the planet. Its name was chosen through a NASA-sponsored student essay competition.
The rover became stuck in late 2009, and its last communication with Earth was sent on March 22, 2010. The rover completed its planned 90-sol mission. Aided by cleaning events that resulted in higher power from its solar panels, Spirit went on to function effectively over twenty times longer than NASA planners expected following mission completion. Spirit also logged 7.73 km (4.8 mi) of driving instead of the planned 600 m (0.4 mi), allowing more extensive geological analysis of Martian rocks and planetary surface features. Initial scientific results from the first phase of the mission (the 90-sol prime mission) were published in a special issue of the journal Science.
On May 1, 2009 (5 years, 3 months, 27 Earth days after landing; 21.6 times the planned mission duration), Spirit became stuck in soft soil. This was not the first of the mission's "embedding events" and for the following eight months NASA carefully analyzed the situation, running Earth-based theoretical and practical simulations, and finally programming the rover to make extrication drives in an attempt to free itself. These efforts continued until January 26, 2010 when NASA officials announced that the rover was likely irrecoverably obstructed by its location in soft soil, though it continued to perform scientific research from its current location.
The rover continued in a stationary science platform role until communication with Spirit stopped on sol 2210 (March 22, 2010). JPL continued to attempt to regain contact until May 24, 2011, when NASA announced that efforts to communicate with the unresponsive rover had ended. A formal farewell was planned at NASA headquarters after the Memorial Day holiday and was televised on NASA TV.
This clip is taken from the IMAX movie "Roving Mars" from 2006 . This is an edited short version.
Source of Information: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRCIzZHpFtY&feature=related
Keep an Eye on Opportunity
Opportunity currently is still reporting back to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Check out its latest findings.
Mission to Mars 2 - 7 Minutes of Terror
NASA is always looking ahead. Even as Spirit & Opportunity were being fired off into space, another team of scientists were already hard at work planning for the next mission to Mars. This time the "Big Bounce" landing system was changed. NASA scientists developed a jet propelled rocket crane to lower the rover Curiosity, onto the surface of Mars.
The rover Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011 aboard the MSL spacecraft and successfully landed on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012.
Prior to landing NASA & Curiosity experienced what has become known as 7 MINUTES of TERROR... 7 minutes of complete uncertainty as to what exactly was going to happen.
Helpful Hint: Click on the bottom of the video on the spot that looks like [ ] & you can watch the video full screen. Press ESC on the top row of your computer keyboard to make it smaller.
Mission to Mars 3 - Are YOU Ready?
NASA is already looking for a better way to land the next rovers, a way that will avoid all that bouncing & one that will not be as costly as the jet propelled rocket crane.
In steps your team, ready to face any challenge that NASA presents to you. You are only limited by a budget of $40,000,000.00, a time limit of 1 week & your team's imagination. Create a way to land the next mars rover.
Additionally, the team has been charged with finding the best place to land the rover on the planet's surface. Google Earth, or in this case Google Mars, allows you to see Mars & will help you determine the best place to land. Remember what you know about topographic maps & your landing is sure to be a success. You have 1 week to find the perfect spot.
Testing of the prototype you build will take place at the end of the 2 week period. Each prototype will be launched from the roof of the MMS. Here's hoping your rover survives the landing!