Exploring the Solar System

Mars Missions in the Twenty-First Century

What were some of the highlights of the travels of the Spirit rover?

Spirit landed in a rocky, flat area of the large Gusev Crater, which was thought to be a possible lakebed that had dried up millions, or even billions of years ago. Its landing site was named Columbia Memorial Station, in honor of the lost space shuttle and its crew. Spirit studied a number of nearby rocks—nicknamed, among others, “Adirondack,” “Mimi,” and “Humphrey”—and uncovered strong evidence that the geology of the region had been shaped long ago by the presence of liquid water. Spirit moved to the Bonneville Crater, four hundred yards away from Columbia Station, and then spent the next two years moving toward and studying the Columbia Hills several miles away.

Overall, Spirit traveled about five miles from Columbia Station. On May 1, 2009, more than five years into the mission, it got stuck in soft soil, and mission controllers were unable to get it loose. Spirit continued to operate as a stationary science platform until communications with it stopped in March 2010.


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