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Spirit, the First Extraterrestrial Mountain Climber

8 Jan 2014, 19:35 UTC
Spirit, the First Extraterrestrial Mountain Climber
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A new photo gallery at the National Air and Space Museum marks the tenth anniversary of the Mars Exploration Rovers.

The National Air and Space Museum yesterday opened an exhibition to celebrate the two Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on opposite sides of Mars 10 years ago this month.
Standing in front of an artfully lit, full-scale model of a rover (Spirit and Opportunity are identical twins, so it could be either one), the mission’s principal investigator, Steve Squyres, spoke about the panoramic mural that surrounded him—a photo Spirit took from the summit of one of the Columbia Hills, named for the space shuttle and crew lost a year before the rovers landed. Spirit was not intended to summit Husband Hill, named after Columbia’s commander Rick Husband. (Each of the seven peaks of the range is named after a crew member.) “NASA didn’t pay for the MERs to do mountaineering,” Squyres said, recalling the 500 or so Mars days it took Spirit, which was designed to last only 90 Martian days, to roam and check out rocky outcroppings to within a meter of the top. “But we were so close, I wasn’t going to leave without making ...

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