Scientists and engineers packed the auditorium at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge Tuesday to hear the international science team for the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit recount the hard-won achievements of the little rover that could.
Initially intended as a three-month mission, Spirit continued gathering and transmitting scientific data from the Red Planet for six years before going silent in March 2010. In May of this year, hope for the rover’s return to service was abandoned. This week’s event was to pay tribute to this complex device.
“It’s hard to confine to normal words what you feel working on something like this,” said John Callas, manager of JPL’s rovers project. “I feel very privileged.”
Callas introduced team members who, one by one, shared a piece of the unfolding drama of obstacles overcome that led up to Spirit’s discovery of water-altered rocks and carbonates — evidence of a history of water on Mars.