Cool! Hopefully they'll discover something that simply can't be ignored by the general public. Like a partially buried monolith or somethin'.
NASA has approved up to 18 more months of operations for Spirit and Opportunity, the twin Mars rovers that have already surprised engineers and scientists by continuing active exploration for more than 14 months.
"The rovers have proven their value with major discoveries about ancient watery environments on Mars that might have harbored life," said Dr. Ghassem Asrar, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "We are extending their mission through September 2006 to take advantage of having such capable resources still healthy and in excellent position to continue their adventures."
The rovers have already completed 11 months of extensions on top of their successful three-month prime missions. "We now have to make long-term plans for the vehicles because they may be around for quite a while," said Jim Erickson, rover project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Erickson cautioned though, "Either mission could end tomorrow with a random part failure. With the rovers already performing well beyond their original design lifetimes, having a part wear out and disable a rover is a distinct possibility at any time. But right now, both rovers are in amazingly good shape. We're going to work them hard to get as much benefit from them as we can, for as long as they are capable of producing worthwhile science results."
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