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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

NASA's Mars Rovers Continue to Explore & Amaze

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- NASA's durable twin Mars rovers have successfully explored the surface of the mysterious red planet for a full Martian year (687 Earth days). Opportunity starts its second Martian year Dec. 11 ; Spirit started a new year three weeks ago. The rovers' original mission was scheduled for only three months.

"The rovers went through all of the Martian seasons and are back to late summer," said Dr. John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena ,Calif. He is deputy rover project manager. "We're preparing for the challenge of surviving another Martian winter."

Both rovers keep finding new variations of bedrock in areas they are exploring on opposite sides of Mars. The geological information they have collected increased evidence about ancient Martian environments including periods of wet, possibly habitable conditions.

Spirit is descending from the top of "Husband Hill" to examine a platform-like structure seen from the summit. It will then hurry south to another hill in time to position itself for maximum solar-cell output during the winter.

"Our speed of travel is driven as much by survival as by discovery, though the geology of Husband Hill continues to fascinate, surprise, puzzle and delight us," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.,principal investigator for the rover's science instruments. "We've got this dramatic topography covered with sand and loose boulders, then, every so often, a little window into the bedrock underneath."

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