Mars is a real place.

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Pictures like this just enthrall me.  This is a real place. On another planet.

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Mars isn’t the only place we’ve landed out there!

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The surface of Titan, a satellite of Saturn

Space Cadet JimmieJoe is taking me to task right now.  This is a big thing, and I missed it!

On January 14, 2005, NASA and ESA landed a probe on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn!

I don’t recall being aware of this, at all.  I don’t even know if I’ve seen this picture before, but if I have, I’m fairly certain I would think it was of Mars.  Instead, this is the surface of a satellite orbiting a planet 794 million miles away from us (at it’s closest approach).

I’m thinking, right now, of all the hoopla surrounding the recent landing of the Curiosity on Mars, and marveling that there was not something similar back in 2005.  Yes, the Huygens probe, part of the Cassini mission, only parachuted to the “ground”, and Curiosity did the whole ‘heat shield – parachute – retro rocket – sky crane’ deal, but still…

I missed it!  (hanging head in shame, avoiding the glare of 12 year old Space Cadet JimmieJoe)

Mars, and Titan.  But did you know, they’re not the only two places we’ve set down on.

We’ve landed on another planet, too.

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They’re NASA and they know it…

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Mars Geek: Opportunity’s Picture of the Moment

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Mars is more than a red dot in the night sky.  It’s a real place.  We can go there.

Mars Geek: Spirit Gives Up The Ghost

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Spirit has died.  One of two NASA rovers on Mars, no contact has been made with the plucky little machine since March 2010.  NASA had been hoping that with the return of summer to the region, the amazing little machine would come back to life.  Sadly, it appears that will not happen.

Transmissions to the Martian surface from Earth, and from orbiting relay stations have failed to elicit a response.  Age and the terribly cold Martian winter have finally silenced the science lab on wheels.

The next generation rover, Curiosity, is nearing it’s launch date, and NASA must reconfigure Earth bound transmission arrays, as well as the satellites orbiting Mars, to support the new mission.  Spirit will stand silent sentinel near Gusev crater now, slowly collecting a layer of Mars dust, waiting for the day when humans arrive to reclaim the sturdy little machine designed to operate for 90 days.  Landing January 5, 2004, Spirit studied Mars for 6 years.  Perhaps, someday, we’ll collect up Spirit, and return it home.  An honored spot at the Smithsonian would be appropriate, I think.  It’s certainly earned that distinction.

It’s twin, Opportunity, still roves on the other side of the planet, sending science back to eager researchers on Earth.

NASA Geek – Opportunity at Santa Maria Crater, Mars

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Designed to last 90 sols (Martian days of about 24 hours and 37 minutes), Mars Rover Opportunity took this picture at Santa Maria Crater yesterday, December 15, 2010, on Sol 2450.  Santa Maria, visible in the background, is about 100 yards across.  Opportunity will explore the crater for a few weeks, and then continue it’s cross country trek to Endurance Crater.  Photo Credit: NASA

NASA Geek – Curiosity Rover Takes a Test Drive

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NASA’s latest Mars rover, Curiosity, passed an agility test by successfully navigating a set of ramps.  Each wheel can maneuver independently, allowing for the flexibility needed to traverse the rocky Martian surface autonomously. Set for launch in late November 2011, the car sized mobile science machine will study Mars for two years or more.

For NASA’s latest article, check out this JPL site.

More pics after the jump.

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