I am sure that you will all join me in congratulating the team at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory on their outstanding work that they have achieved with the Mars Exploration Rover mission over the last 15 years with the Spirit mars rover and Opportunity Mars rover. It has contributed so much to help our understanding of the solar system in which we live and has helped us to discover new facts about the planet Mars. I would especially like to commend the work of the Opportunity Mars Rover which, as of last month, lost contact with the engineers at NASA after 14½ half years of faithful service. The Rovers have been instrumental in advancing human knowledge of our vast and complex solar system and I hope that, in the future, missions like these can continue and we can expand our understanding of our beautiful solar system.
The two Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which are no longer with us, having perished on Mars, managed to defy all expectations set out for them when they both landed on Mars on 3 and 24 January 2004 respectively. Both Rovers were expected to last 90 martian days and travel 1 km to gain information on the atmosphere of Mars. However, the Spirit ended up working for 6 years and logged a distance of 8km – twenty times longer than expected, before the Spirit’s mission ended in 2010. The Opportunity Mars Rover holds the title for working on Mars longer than any other robot on Mars, lasting an immense 15 years, travelling over 45km or 28 miles, longer than a marathon! This is a extraordinary feat from the team at NASA.
Spirit and Opportunity have both found groundbreaking evidence by testing the rocks and soil of Mars that, long ago, Mars was a lot wetter than it used to be. In addition, the conditions on Mars could have sustained microbial life. The data provided allowed the scientists to construct a past picture of what life would have been like on the planet years ago. It is amazing what we can learn, with newer technology coming out all the time.
With the Spirit Rover’s last communication in 2010, the team at NASA landed the Curiosity Rover back in 2012 and it now remains the last surviving Rover on Mars. Unlike the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers, the Curiosity Rover is the only one with the ability to gather samples of rocks and soil, process them, and distribute them to test chambers on board. I hope that it manages to uncover new discoveries that the Spirit and Opportunity did not. Luckily for us all, NASA does not have any plans of slowing down, with plans to launch another Rover in 2020 with technology that means it wont have to have a operator on at all times. I would like to reiterate my sincere thanks for the team at NASA for inspiring so many people with their missions to Mars, and to the Opportunity and Spirit Mars Rovers for their work on finding out new information about Mars. I also wish the Curiosity the best of luck in its onward journey.