"You could have cut the tension here with a knife the night Spirit landed," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. "Just remembering the uncertainty involved with the landing emphasizes how exciting it is for all of us, since the rovers are still actively exploring. The rovers created an amazing amount of public interest and have certainly helped advance the Vision for Space Exploration," he said. The twin Mars explorers have drawn the most hits to NASA Web sites - - more than 9 billion in 2004.
Dr. Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., said, "Little did we know a year ago that we'd be celebrating a year of roving on Mars. The success of both rovers is tribute to hundreds of talented men and women who have put their knowledge and labor into this team effort."
"The rovers are both in amazingly good shape for their age," said JPL's Jim Erickson, rover project manager. "The twins sailed through the worst of the martian winter with flying colors, and spring is coming. Both rovers are in strong positions to continue exploring, but we can't give you any guarantees."
Opportunity is driving toward the heat shield that protected it during descent through the martian atmosphere. Rover team members hope to determine how deeply the atmospheric friction charred the protective layer. "With luck, our observations may help to improve our ability to deliver future vehicles to the surface of other planets," Erickson said.
Spirit is exploring the Columbia Hills within the Gusev Crater. "In December, we discovered a completely new type of rock in Columbia Hills, unlike anything seen before on Mars," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the rovers' science payloads.
Jumbled textures of specimens dubbed "Wishstone" and "Wishing Well" look like the product of an explosion, perhaps from a volcano or a meteor impact. These rocks are much richer in phosphorus than any other known Mars rocks. "Some ways of making phosphates involve water; others do not," Squyres said. "We want to look at more of these rocks to see if we can distinguish between those possible histories."