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Artist rendering of the Mars rover  (Source: NASA)
Even if this is the end, we have much to celebrate

Not surprisingly, the NASA Mars rovers have been a joyful topic of discussion here at the American Geophysical Union event in San Francisco.  This yearly gathering of science and space egg heads from around the world offers a unique environment for everyone to discuss current happenings in the scientific community.

Seemingly crushing every road block the Red Planet can place in front of them, the solar-powered NASA Mars rovers are still chugging away - for now.  Originally scheduled for a 90-day mission on Mars, Spirit and Opportunity persevered through just about all odds - even surviving a dust storm many in the scientific community would end the mission.

After making the biggest find since arriving on Mars in January 2004, both rovers are in for a brutal Martian winter, with scientists at AGU admitting it is possible the Rovers will never be heard of a gain.  As New York Times writer Kenneth Chang described it, the "lame" wheel on Spirit ended up helping make a huge discovery, but NASA can do very little to help try and protect its prized rovers.

I hope both rovers are able to withstand another brutal Martian winter, but researchers don't seem overly optimistic about seeing great progress from either rover next spring.  If Spirit is unable to reach a sunny spot on the plateau it is exploring, it could be doomed forever.  The rover has to reach the predetermined location by Christmas, but continues to face a difficult journey, especially since it must stop and recharge its batteries for one day just to travel one hour.

If this winter proves to be the end of the Mars rovers, we can only sit back and enjoy how well they have done over the past several years.




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