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To MARS with MER - GET INVOLVED!
FOLLOWING THE WATER
Are we alone in the Universe? Is there life beyond Earth? Now we have a way to begin answering such questions. Modern science replaces speculation, hunches, and belief, with hypotheses, experiment, and evidence.
In summer 2003, NASA launched twin "Mars Exploration Rovers", named Spirit and Opportunity. Landing in January 2005, they're still at work, almost 2 years later, nearly eight times longer than anticipated before launch. It has been an engineering triumph as the rovers have traveled many kilometers, venturing into and escaping out of deep craters. But the MER mission has also struck scientific gold. For the first time, there have been robotic geologists on mars, equipped with new scientific instruments, looking for - and finding - evidence of ancient water.
P2K's FOLLOWING THE WATER special is the story of why we went to Mars, and what we found. It's an inside look at how the "Campaign for Eagle Crater" succeeded in discovering definitive evidence of a shallow, salty sea. Opportunity had been lucky: she'd rolled right into this 20-meter diameter depression, what one scientist called "an interplanetary hole in one." See how a RAT from New York (each rover carries a Rock Abrasion Tool, designed and built by Honeybee Robotics) helped make the breakthrough discoveries.
Across the planet, Spirit had to work for her eventual success. Landing in a part of Gusev Crater, she found herself surrounded by volcanic rocks, much like those seen in past missions. She hit the road, for the Columbia Hills, nearly 3 kilometers distant: no-one knew if she could make it. FOLLOWING THE WATER travels with Spirit, and reveals the roller-coaster ride of emotions experienced by her science team and engineers before she too eventually found proof of ancient water.
This is a close-up portrait of 21st century science at work. NASA's rover mission has rewritten the history of Mars. For the first time on a planet beyond Earth, Spirit and Opportunity have found environments shaped by liquid water, places that could, perhaps, once have supported life.
FOLLOWING THE WATER is made possible by the National Science Foundation.
The ongoing TO MARS WITH MER education and outreach project is also made possible by NSF, with additional support for interactive broadcasts and on-site events from NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.