NASA Spirit Rover Celebrates Five Productive, Dusty Years On Mars

Happy anniversary, Spirit! That's right—against all odds, NASA's plucky Spirit rover has officially been on the Red Planet for five years. Its twin, Opportunity, will celebrate the same five-year milestone on January 24.

To celebrate the anniversary, NASA assembled a short video that profiles several of the JPL engineers who've pretty much dedicated their lives to operating and maintaining the rovers, as well as some pics of the rovers themselves in action.

And while the rovers have experienced their share of mishaps and sun-blocking dust storms over the past five years, even the worst of times have provided amazing opportunities for discovery.

Case in point: Ashley Stroupe, rover driver for NASA's JPL, said that a malfunctioning, dragging right front wheel on Spirit actually led to the discovery of silica and sulfur just below the Martian surface. Those minerals that had to be put there by water, she said, which meant the wheel-dragging incident was actually a "major scientific discovery."

So congratulations again to the two venerable rovers that are still plugging away on Mars after five years of service. Here's to five more? I only ask because, after the Mars Science Laboratory delay to 2011, it looks like its going to be a while before NASA can get them some company. [BBC]

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