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Recalling when the Mars Exploration Rover 'Spirit' started its 11-year journey

Sunday, January 3rd 2021, 6:08 am - The Spirit's primary job was to investigate Mars for 90 sol days (sol days are 39.7 minutes longer than Earth days) — it stayed operational for 11 years.

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On January 3rd, 2004, the Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit, landed on Mars to collect data on rocks, soil, and water. Proving the existence of water on Mars is a big ask, so Spirit was joined 21 days later by its twin Opportunity.

Spirit and Opportunity were doing the primary research part of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MER).

The rovers were the size of a golf cart but weighed about 405 pounds apiece. The plan was to place each rover on opposite sides of Mars so they could perform geological investigations as they roamed.

Map of the movement of the Spirit rover up to 2008. Map of Spirit's track up to 2008. Courtesy of NASA/Wikipedia

They also took photographs.

Opportunity Self-Portrait: Opportunity used its panoramic camera to take the images combined into this mosaic view of the rover.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell "Opportunity Self-Portrait: Opportunity used its panoramic camera to take the images combined into this mosaic view of the rover." Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

The rovers' initial investigation was only supposed to last 90 sols (Martian days which equals 92.475 Earth days). Spirit was operational until 2011 and Opportunity stayed active until 2018.

Spirit and Opportunity went above and beyond their duties. Listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History" to hear the incredible details of their missions. A couple of highlights of MER's accomplishments are that it uncovered evidence that Mars used to be a lot wetter and it unearthed almost pure silica, the main ingredient of window glass.

Rover exposes silica-rich dust *Rover unearthed silica-rich dust. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

Thumbnail courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

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