The Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars to explore the Martian surface and geology, and searched for clues to past water activity on Mars. They were each launched in 2003 and landed in 2004. Communication with Spirit stopped on sol 2210 (March 22, 2010). JPL continued to attempt to regain contact until May 24, 2011, when NASA announced that efforts to communicate with the unresponsive rover had ended. Opportunity arrived at Endeavour crater on 9 August 2011, at a landmark called Spirit Point named after its rover twin, after traversing 13 miles (21 km) from Victoria crater, over a three-year period. After a planet wide dust storm in June 2018, the final communication was received on June 10, 2018, and Opportunity was declared dead on February 13, 2019. The rover lasted for almost fifteen years on Mars — although the rover was intended to last only three months.
Earth's Moon Reveals An Ancient Secret. Many astronomers think that during an ancient era, termed the Late Heavy Bombardment, our young Moon was violently battered by a marauding multitude of invading asteroids that crashed onto its newly formed surface. This attack of pelting objects from space occurred about 4 billion years ago, and the shower of crashing asteroids excavated impact craters, and also slashed open deep fissures, in the lunar crust. This sustained shower of merciless impacts increased lunar porosity, and opened up an intertwining network of large seams under the Moon's surface. "Since time immemorial, humanity has looked up and wondered what made the man in the Moon. We know the dark splotches are large, lava-filled, impact basins that were created by asteroid impacts about four billion years ago. GRAIL data indicate that both the near side and the far side of the Moon were bombarded by similarly large impactors, but they reacted to them much differently," noted Dr. Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator, in a November 7, 2013 NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Press Release. Dr. Zuber is of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The JPL is located in Pasadena, California. Several possibilities could provide an answer as to why the moon would have charcoal-black surface patches, even though it is circling a dwarf planet that is as bright as freshly fallen snow. One theory that has been suggested proposes that, unlike larger objects such as Makemake, its own little companion moon is so small that it cannot gravitationally keep a grip onto a bright and icy crust, which then sublimates, undergoing a sea-change from solid to gas under the melting influence of warming sunlight. This would make the little moon akin to comets and other KBOs, many of which are well-coated with very dark material.