Mars Exploration Rovers
Mars Exploration Rovers
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Missions are robotic space mission exploring the planet Mars.
In 2003 with two rovers Spirit and Opportunity (MER )were sent to explore the Martian surface and geology.
This mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, which included three previous successful landings: the two Viking program landers in 1976 and Mars Pathfinders probe in 1997.
The total cost of building, launching, landing and operating the rovers on the surface for the initial 90 Martian day primary mission was US$820 million.
Since the rovers have continued to function beyond their initial primary mission, they have each received five mission extensions. The fifth mission extension was granted in October 2007, and ran to the end of 2009. The total cost of the first four mission extensions was $104 million, and the fifth mission extension is expected to cost at least $20 million.
Start of Mission
NASA's twin robot geologists, the Mars Exploration Rovers spirit and Opportunity , launched toward Mars on June 10 and July 7, 2003, in search of answers about the history of water on Mars. They landed on Mars January 3.
The spacecraft were sent to sites on opposite sides of Mars that appear to have been affected by liquid water in the past.
The mission's primary scientific goal is to search for and describe a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars.
Objectives of the Rovers Mission
Some of the scientific objectives of the Mars Exploration Rover mission were to:
1. Search for and characterise a variety of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity.
2. Determine the distribution and composition of minerals, rocks, and soils surrounding the landing sites.
3. Determine what has shaped the local terrain and influenced the chemistry. Such processes could include water or wind erosion and cratering.
4. Perform check the surface observations made by scientific instruments.
5. Search for iron-containing minerals, identify and specific mineral types that contain water or were formed in water.
6. Search for geological clues to the environmental conditions that existed when liquid water was present.
7. Assess whether those environments were conducive to life.
Mars Rovers Discoveries
During the NASA Rover missions the search began with determining whether the Martian environment was ever suitable for life. Life, as we understand it, requires water, so the history of water on Mars is critical to finding out if the Martian environment was ever conducive to life. Although the Mars Exploration Rovers did not have the ability to detect life directly, they offered very important information on the habitability of the environment during the planet's history.