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Photos: Mars rovers still churning

Spirit and Opportunity mark a first anniversary on the red planet--well past their original 90-day life expectancy.
By Bill Detwiler, Contributor
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shadow on Mars

NASA's robotic space explorers, the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, have done the unexpected by surviving for a full Martian year (687 Earth days) on the red planet. When Spirit first landed on Jan. 3, 2004, scientists hoped that the rovers would last 90 sols, or Martian days.

Spirit's shadow and robotic arm are captured in this image. In early December 2005, researchers reported that Opportunity's robotic arm may be permanently damaged.

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grains of sand

Both rovers together have taken more than 130,000 pictures of Mars. This image of an area 1.2 inches across was taken by Spirit's microscopic imager. The scale can show features as small as 4 one-thousandths of an inch.

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Scylla

Opportunity, which is about the size of a golf cart, recently captured this false-color panoramic view of a wind-blown ripple called "Scylla."

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Kalavrita

These before and after images depict an encounter by Opportunity's rock abrasion tool with a rock target dubbed "Kalavrita." The circle is about 1.8 inches across.

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traverse course

Early in the mission, scientists plotted a traverse course that would take Spirit up "Husband Hill." The route was chosen so that the rover's solar panels would face the Sun and the antenna would point toward Earth.

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reaching the summit

After a long climb, Spirit reached the summit of "Husband Hill" and captured never-before-seen views of the Gusev Crater.

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first woman driver

Researcher Ashley Stroupe uses an oversize sand box to practice guiding the rovers on the Martian terrain. The earthbound "driver" must develop step-by-step instructions, then run the commands and hope for the best.

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Hillary

This rock outcropping was named after the first man to climb Mt. Everest, Edmund Hillary.

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signs of water

Opportunity recently took this photo of an outcrop called "Olympia" along the Erebus crater. The rocks were shaped mainly by windblown sediments, but some are also thought to have formed in damp conditions.

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dust devil

This video still shows a dust devil growing in size and blowing across the plain inside Mars' Gusev Crater.

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