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Serving up the Science

This image shows the area directly in front of the rover egress ramp and around Yogi.
This image shows the area directly in front of the rover egress ramp and around Yogi. This is a 3D the image for more information.

"Pathfinder started the thread of continuity between science, water, climate and life, and the Mars Exploration Rover will continue it, for sure," said Golombek, who is also a science team member on Mars Exploration Rover.

Following up on Pathfinder's glimpse of Mars, the Mars Exploration Rover will move further and do more to learn about the planet's history, water cycle and climate. Pathfinder's discoveries, combined with images from orbiters and the raging debate among scientists about life on Mars, has in some sense sparked a renaissance in Mars exploration.

"It has changed the way scientists work with Mars and the way scientists work together," Manning said. "Scientists of different disciplines now collaborate to solve complicated problems and to understand how life and natural history complement each other."

Mars has been opening secrets very slowly with tantalizing excitement, such as the most recent Odyssey discovery of water. Before Pathfinder launched, scientists had enough evidence to predict water just below the surface of Mars, but the discovery was still surprising.

"The evidence of water on Mars is ubiquitous," Manning said. "The big question is where did it all go? It couldn't have all evaporated. We know there is a big correlation between water and the evolution of life on this planet, so we have lots of hope that there may be signs of early life on Mars."

Golombek speculated that in 2005 or 2009, we might investigate rocks and water on Mars. We may even know whether pre-biotic chemistry existed on the red planet. At the very least, with the Mars Exploration Rover, we will learn a lot about Mars' very complicated history and how it became the way that it is now.

"You must crawl first, then walk." Golombek said. "Pathfinder was the first baby step, Mars Exploration Rover is going to take the next big step, and we're hoping for more steps beyond that."

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Pathfinder's 5th Anniversary
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