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NASANews@hq.nasa.gov wrote:

>Donald Savage
>Headquarters, Washington                     Sept. 21, 2004
>(Phone: 202/358-1547)
>Guy Webster 
>Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
>(Phone: 818/354-6278)
>     As NASA's Spirit and Opportunity resumed reliable 
>contact with Earth, after a period when Mars passed nearly 
>behind the sun, the space agency extended funding for an 
>additional six months of rover operations, as long as they 
>keep working.
>Both rovers successfully completed their primary three-month 
>missions on the surface of Mars in April and have already 
>added about five months of bonus exploration during the first 
>extension of their missions.
>"Spirit and Opportunity appear ready to continue their 
>remarkable adventures," said Andrew Dantzler, solar system 
>division director at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "We're 
>taking advantage of that good news by adding more support for 
>the teamwork here on Earth that's necessary for operating the 
>Neither rover drove during a 12-day period this month, while 
>radio transmissions were unreliable because of the sun's 
>position between the two planets. Daily planning and 
>commanding of rover activities recommenced Monday for 
>Opportunity and today for Spirit.
>"It is a relief to get past this past couple of weeks," said 
>Jim Erickson, project manager for both rovers at NASA's Jet 
>Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. "Not only were 
>communications disrupted, but the rovers were also going 
>through the worst part of Mars southern-hemisphere winter 
>from a solar-energy standpoint."
>"Although Spirit and Opportunity are well past warranty, they 
>are showing few signs of wearing out," Erickson said. "We 
>really don't know how long they will keep working, whether 
>days or months. We will do our best to continue getting the 
>maximum possible benefit from these great national 
>Rovers' science team members will spend less time at JPL 
>during the second mission extension. They are able to attend 
>daily planning meetings by teleconferencing from their home 
>institutions in several states and in Europe. "All 150 
>science team members and collaborators have been provided the 
>tools to be able to participate remotely," said JPL's Dr. 
>John Callas, science manager for the rover project.
>Workstations researchers used at JPL are at their home 
>institutions. Planning tools include video feeds, workstation 
>display remote viewing, and audio conferencing.
>Besides reducing costs, remote operations allow scientists to 
>spend more time at home. "We get back to more normal lives, 
>back to our families, and we still get to explore Mars every 
>day," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, 
>N.Y., principal investigator.
>Another change in operations is a shift from seven days per 
>week to five days per week from October through December. 
>This accommodates a temporary trim of about 20 percent in the 
>project's engineering team to about 100 members. The rovers' 
>reduced energy supply, during the rest of the Martian winter, 
>makes the inactive days valuable for recharging batteries. By 
>January, the energy situation will have improved for the 
>solar-powered rovers, provided they are still operating. The 
>team size will rebound to support daily operations.
>As Mars emerges from behind the sun, Spirit is partway up the 
>west spur of highlands called the "Columbia Hills," a drive 
>of more than 3 kilometers (2 miles) from its landing site. 
>Opportunity is inside stadium-size "Endurance Crater," headed 
>toward the base of a stack of exposed rock layers in "Burns 
>Cliff," and a potential exit route on the crater's south 
>JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in 
>Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for 
>NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Images and 
>additional information about the project are available on the 
>Web at:
>For information about NASA programs on the Internet, visit:
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