On Monday, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) celebrated the first anniversary of its rover Spirit's landing on Mars.
Both Spirit and another NASA rover Opportunity, which landed on Mars on January 24 last year, had successfully completed their three-month primary missions in April. They continued working on the red planet well past their expected lifespans.
"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 the hundreds of talented men and women who put their knowledge and labor into this team effort," NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Director Charles Elachi told a press briefing.
After the worst of the Martian winter, the rovers are in "amazingly good" shape, and both are strong enough to continue exploring, said JPL scientists.
Spirit is exploring the Columbia Hills within the Gusev Crater after discovering a new type of rock in December, while Opportunity is driving toward the heat shield that protected it during descent through the Martian atmosphere.
Scientists hope to determine how deeply the atmospheric friction burnt the protective layer. These findings may help improve the ability to deliver future vehicles to Mars or other planets.
NASA's next Mars mission, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, is due to launch in August, said the JPL, which has managed the Mars Exploration Rover project since 2000.
(Xinhua News Agency January 5, 2005)