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This picture shows Gusev Crater. Spirit landed inside the yellow oval. The oval is 81 km (50 miles) long. The colors in this picture show how high (or low) the land is. Low places are shown as blue and green. High places are shown as orange and red.
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NASA

MER Spirit landing site - Gusev Crater

Two robot rovers landed on Mars in January 2004. The first robot is named Spirit. Spirit landed inside a big crater called Gusev Crater.

Gusev Crater may have been filled with water long ago. It may have been a big lake. Spirit is a robot geologist. Some kinds of rocks form in places where there is water. Spirit is trying to find those kinds of rocks. If it does, that might prove that Gusev Crater really was a lake.

The only water that we know about on Mars right now is frozen - it is ice! Many scientists think Mars used to be warmer. They think there may have been liquid water on Mars in the past. Liquid water is good place to find life, especially microbes. If we find water on Mars, or clues about where there used to be water, that might help us figure out whether Mars ever had life.

Spirit has a twin named Opportunity. Opportunity landed at a different place on Mars named Meridiani Planum.

Gusev Crater is about 145 km (90 miles) wide. It is about as big as the state of Connecticut. There is a valley connected to Gusev Crater. The valley looks like it might have had a river in it long ago. Maybe Spirit will find rocks that formed in water!

Last modified February 8, 2004 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA