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Mars
From Launch to Landing

Spirit
running time: 9 minutes 25 seconds

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From Launch to Landing

Phoenix
running time: 5 minutes 7 seconds

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From Launch to Landing

The first geologist on Mars was a 380-pound automaton called Spirit that astronomer Steve Squyres, that mission's lead scientist, calls the "monster truck of Mars rovers." Yet before this six-wheeled robot could arrive safely on the Red Planet, it faced an array of hurdles that make it seem more mortal than machine. From the moment Spirit entered the martian atmosphere on January 3, 2004, mission engineers were holding their collective breath, watching to see if the rover's parachute could survive supersonic speeds, if its airbags would successfully cushion its landing, and if it would resume communication after a scheduled interlude. The same held true, more or less, when its twin rover, Opportunity, landed in late January 2004 and when Phoenix, the latest NASA robot geologist, touched down in May 2008.

In these animations, follow the journeys of two of the robots, Spirit and Phoenix, from launch to landing. To start the videos, choose one of the video links at left.

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© | Created November 2008