New NASA Video Summarizes Three Year Trek of Mars Rover
While activities on Earth are constantly grabbing the headlines, little attention is paid to that other planet on which humans have a presence. Since September 2008, NASA has been operating a highly advanced robotic vehicle on Mars. At its closest distance to Earth, the vehicle is a mere 69 million kilometers away (about 43 million miles). The spectacular images created by the rover have given us a first-hand glimpse of the planet's surface, paving the way for future human missions and potential colonization. At the end of each Martian day (24 hours, 39 minutes) in which it drove, it would snap a picture. These pictures have been compiled to create a video summarizing the journey.
The Mars Rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, completed their 3-month primary missions in 2004. They have managed to continue for many years, performing a sort of bonus, extended mission. The Spirit Rover dropped out of communication in 2010. Fortunately, the Opportunity Rover is still functioning and communicating with Earth.
Opportunity was originally dropped at the Victoria crater, and has been making its way to the Endeavor crater over the past three years. It has been a 13 mile journey across the plains of the red planet. The video shows the rim of the Endeavor crater slowly growing is Opportunity steadily moved forward, around obstacles and tough terrain. The video also includes a sound track.
"The sound represents the vibrations of the rover while moving on the surface of Mars," said Paolo Bellutta, a rover planner at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., who has plotted many of Opportunity's drives and coordinated production of the video. "When the sound is louder, the rover was moving on bedrock. When the sound is softer, the rover was moving on sand."
The Martian rovers have performed admirably and made amazing discoveries. Most important, they have found evidence of moisture in the environment of ancient Mars, opening the possibility that Mars once supported life. Meanwhile, NASA is preparing to send the next-generating rover, Curiosity, landing in August 2012 at the Gale crater on Mars.
The new rover will be more advanced and larger (car-sized), able to cover more ground. It will greatly increase NASA's ability to detect signs of microbial life on the surface. The exploration of humanity's next planet marches on.
For more information and link to video: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/index.html