Thursday, November 10, 2005

Everest on Mars

Spirit and Opportunity — the extraordinarily successful mobile probes on Mars — have now been operating for very close to two years. Not bad at all for missions designed to last just three months!

Recently Spirit climbed to the top of the Columbia Hills, and on a peak the scientists at JPL have named “Everest", the Spirit probe paused to take this 360 degree panorama of the spectacular view it was enjoying. You can click on the image at right to get a slighly larger view — or you can go to the rover site to get a truly enormous (40+ MB!) version, nearly big enough to wallpaper your livingroom with.

I’ve repeated this so many times I’m sure my long-timer readers are bored to hear it again, but … these two probes are making manned space exploration (at least as it’s currently practiced) look like a positively silly waste of time, energy, and money. And they’re not alone — Spirit and Opportunity have dozens of “brothers” and “sisters", like Cassini-Huygens around Saturn, the Hayabusa probe, and many more. Many of those probes all by themselves are producing more good, hard, useful science results than all of the manned space missions combined. And they’re doing it for one helluva lot less moolah…

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