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Go Spirit!

For quite a while now the Mars Exploration Rover “Spirit”‘s surroundings have been a little… hmm, how can I say this without being rude… “uninspiring”; the rover has been skirting around the edge of Homeplate for what seems like a lifetime, and the view has been pretty much this every day…


… as she has trundled down a small valley between Homeplate and a ridge to its west. Nothing much has changed… rock… another rok… ooh, look, another rock…

Well, yesterday the view changed. Dramatically. Up ahead, Spirit can now see this


That is “Von Braun”, a rather exotic-looking mound that has a cap of what looks like harder material on top of it, material that looks a little, to some, like the stuff Homeplate itself is made of. Hmmm. What is it? An ancient mini-volcano? A vent of some kind? A weird uplift feature? We don’t know yet. But Spirit is going to drive over to it and take a good look, so we’ll have a better idea soon.

So, at last, Spirit is ready to do some real sight-seeing again! Keep watching the MER picture websites – and checking back here, of course – because the images that come back in the next few days are going to be very exciting, I think..!

To finish with, I’ve taken that raw image and added some colour to make it look a little more, well, martian… 🙂 Just click on it for a full size view. NOT claiming it’s “accurate” or “realistic”, just pretty!


Eddington Astronomical Society April Meeting Report…”Return of The Doug…”

Last night’s meeting of the Eddington Astronomical Society, in Kendal’s Castle Street Community Centre, was a great success, with a very large turn-out for our very special guest speaker, unmannedspaceflight.com’s Doug Ellison.


After a brief round-up of the latest space news, and reports on EAS projects and events past and future, and a break for a much-needed cup of tea and some biccies (thanks AGAIN for all your hard work, Liz!), it was time for Doug to take the floor to give a special hour-long presentation about the adventures of the Mars Exploration Rover “Spirit” on Mars since its historic landing more than 5 years ago.

This was Doug’s third visit to the EAS, and yet again he gave a hugely enjoyable talk. Doug is, like myself, a frustrated martian; he loves Mars, and Mars rovers, and the exploration of Mars in general, but if I know <- this -> much about Mars and things martian then Doug knows <—————- THIS ————-> much, and is like a walking space exploration and technology Wikipedia. As ever, Doug’s talk was funny, entertaining and hugely informative, illustrated with many breathtaking and exclusive images, “ooh!”-inspiring animations and graphics, and I’m sure that many of the people who had come along to the meeting – including some of our friends from the Furness and South Lakes Astronomical Society in Barrow, nice to see you, guys! – found it exciting and inspiring. The closing animation – a slow, graceful flyover of Spirit’s exploration site in Gusev Crater – was fascinating, and a perfect way to round things off. After his talk Doug was happy to take questions, and thanked everyone for coming to see him and being such an appreciative audience.


Above: Doug with some EAS members after the meeting.

After the meeting a few of us retired to a local pub to treat Doug to a well-earned pint in thanks for coming such a long way to see us. Hopefully we’ll see Doug up here again NEXT year… maybe to talk about Opportunity’s sixth year on Mars!  🙂

We’ve enjoyed our time at the Castle Street Centre, and are very grateful to everyone there for making us so welcome, but now its future is secured we’re going back to our “home”: the next meeting of the Eddington AS is going to be held at Kendal Museum, and on Monday May 11th our special guest speaker will be the Secretary of the Cockermouth Astronomical Society, Chris Darwin, who will be talking about “Extrasolar Planets”.