Well Done, Little Rover

May 26, 2011

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Every now and then we need to be reminded that mind-blowing history is being made daily, just two to three miles to the northwest. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, truly one of the finest feathers in our cap, has played a part in the nation’s space program since the early 1930s. And it’s right next door!

This week, we said goodbye and thank you to the Mars Rover known as Spirit. Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas sent this letter to his team shortly after the final command was sent Wednesday:

“Last night, just after midnight, the last recovery command was sent to Spirit. It would be an understatement to say that this was a significant moment. Since the last communication from Spirit on March 22, 2010, as she entered her fourth Martian winter, nothing has been heard from her. There is a continued silence from Mars.

We must remember that we are at this point because we did what we said we would do, to wear the rovers out exploring. For Spirit, we have done that, and then some. Spirit was designed as a 3-month mission with one kilometer of traverse capability. The rover lasted over 6 years and drove over 7.7 kilometers [4.8 miles] and returned over 124,000 images.

John Callas, Project Manager, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover project.

Let’s remember the adventure we have had. Spirit has climbed mountains, survived rover-killing dust storms, rode out three cold, dark winters and made some of the most spectacular discoveries on Mars. She has told us that Mars was once like Earth. There was water and hot springs, the conditions that could have supported life. She has given us a foundation to further explore the Red Planet and to understand ourselves and our place in the universe.

But in addition to all the scientific discoveries Spirit has given us in her long, productive rover life, she has also given us a great intangible. Mars is no longer a strange, distant and unknown place. Mars is now our neighborhood. And we all go to work on Mars every day. Thank you, Spirit. Well done, little rover.”

Well done, indeed.

Read Callas’ complete letter on the JPL blog here.




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