NASA's Opportunity rover was built for a three-month mission on Mars, but continues to return valuable scientific data 10 years later. Opportunity, one of NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rovers, reached the Red Planet Jan. 24, 2004 (PST). It landed three weeks after its twin, named Spirit. Both rovers made important discoveries about wet environments that could have supported microbial life on ancient Mars. Spirit stopped communicating with Earth in 2010. Opportunity is continuing to provide scientific results, and currently is investigating the rim of a crater 14 miles (22 kilometers) wide.
New findings from rock samples collected and examined by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity have confirmed an ancient wet environment that was milder and older than the acidic and oxidizing conditions told by rocks the rover examined previously.
In the Jan. 24 edition of the journal Science, Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, writes in detail about the discoveries made by the rover and how these discoveries have shaped our knowledge of the planet. According to Arvidson and others on the team, the latest evidence from Opportunity is landmark.
Now in orbit around the moon, NASA's newest lunar mission has completed the commissioning phase, and its science instruments have passed their preliminary checks.
"This is very promising for LADEE's science phase - we are already seeing the shape of things to come," said Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., the center that is managing the mission.
The mission's commissioning phase lasted roughly one month, a period in which the spacecraft remained in a high-altitude preliminary orbit and the instruments were turned on, checked and calibrated.
All three science instruments are in good health, according to the mission's payloads manager, Robert Caffrey at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The sensitivity of the instruments is very high, and we are looking forward to an exciting science phase!"
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