Friday, February 25, 2011

NASA investigator: Mars rover mission 'adventure of a lifetime'

It's cold, dry, dusty and desolate, said Steve Squyres, the principal investigator of NASA's Mars rover program.

"It is a terrible place," he said. "If you went there, you would hate it." However, Squyres said, evidence discovered during the mission indicates that Mars in the ancient past was a very different place from the one he and his team are exploring now.
Squyres delivered a guest lecture Wednesday evening at Oklahoma State University's Wes Watkins Center. Squyres' lecture was the featured event in the university's Research Week lineup.

Since the Mars rover mission began, scientists have uncovered evidence of erosion on the red planet, indicating liquid water once existed. Dry river and lake beds are scattered across the Martian surface, Squyres said. The rovers have also found minerals that can only form in the presence of water, he said.

"This is telling us that, in the past, Mars was different," he said.

The two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on Mars in January 2004. Originally, Squyres said, the rovers were designed to last about 90 days. He expected them to last longer -- maybe twice as long, he said. But the two rovers have outlasted even the most optimistic expectations, he said.

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