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<   No. 623   2004-10-10   >

Comic #623

1 {scene: NASA Mars Rover mission control room}
1 NASA Guy 1: It's amazing. We planned these Mars rovers to last 90 days, and they're both operating well at over 250 days!
2 NASA Guy 2: Yep, and especially after so many previous Mars probes have crashed, or vanished, or stopped working for no apparent reason.
3 NASA Guy 2: It looks like someone up there is finally on our side.
4 {scene change: Surface of Mars. Two Martians stand near a Mars Rover.}
4 Martian 1: C'mon, you said you'd have this annoying thing switched off 6 months ago!
4 Martian 2: {wielding a spanner ineffectually} I'm trying!!

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The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are still out there on Mars, puttering away faithfully and exceeding NASA's stated mission goals every single day. It's been a fantastically successful misson so far, and looks to continue being so for some time to come.

The background in panel 4 is an image of a rock outcrop near the top of the Columbia Hills on Mars, taken on 5 August, 2004, by the rover Spirit as it travelled over 3 km from its landing site at Gusev Crater. The full image and a list of panoramas by Spirit are available from NASA's web site.

2013-10-25 Rerun commentary: Spirit became stuck in loose Martian soil on 1 May, 2009, after 1944 days, and continued transmitting data until 22 March, 2010, 2269 days after it landed, making its operational lifetime some 25 and a bit times its planned mission duration of 90 days (actually 90 sols, or Martian days, which equals about 92 and a half Earth days).

Opportunity is still roving Mars as I type this, 9 and a half years after its planned mission lifetime.

Not bad!

I used a trick in the last panel to show the rover on the actual Martian landscape. I placed the rover and the Martians on the surface of my wooden desk, and blended the desk surface with the Martian rocks. You can see the change in texture, but the colour match is pretty good.

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My comics: Irregular Webcomic! | Darths & Droids | Eavesdropper | Planet of Hats | The Dinosaur Whiteboard | mezzacotta
My blogs: (daily updates) | 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe (science!) | Carpe DMM (long form posts) | Snot Block & Roll (food reviews)
More comics I host: The Prisoner of Monty Hall | Lightning Made of Owls | Square Root of Minus Garfield | iToons | Comments on a Postcard | Awkward Fumbles
Last Modified: Friday, 25 October 2013; 03:11:41 PST.
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