NASA's Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on the Red Planet 10 years ago this month and the space agency will celebrate the milestone with a live webcast event tonight.
Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004 to begin a 90-day mission that continues to this day. Spirit, which landed first, went silent in March 2010, but Opportunity is still exploring a decade after reaching the Red Planet. You can watch NASA's Mars rover webcast live here beginning at 10 p.m. EST (0300 Jan. 17 GMT, 7 p.m. PST), courtesy of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
"NASA's twin rovers launched separately in 2003 and landed three weeks apart in January 2004. They completed their three-month prime missions in April 2004 and went on to perform extended missions for years," NASA officials wrote in an announcement. "Spirit and Opportunity made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life." [10 Amazing Mars Discoveries by Spirit & Opportunity]
Tonight's 10th anniversary event will be held at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and feature:
- Charles Elachi, director, JPL
- Steve Squyres, professor of astronomy, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover mission
- John Callas, project manager, Mars Exploration Rover Project, JPL
- Bill Nye, chief executive officer of the Planetary Society, Pasadena, Calif.
If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can attend the event free of charge, though admission is on a first-come, first-serve basis. The event will begin at 7 p.m. local time in JPL's Beckman Auditorium on the California Institute of Technology campus, 1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, Calif.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has managed the missions of Spirit and Opportunity since they launched in 2003. The laboratory is also the home to the mission operations center for NASA's newer Curiosity Mars rover, which landed on the Red Planet in 2012.
The laboratory, which is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology, has set up a special website in honor of the rover anniversary here: http://mars.nasa.gov/mer10