During the past decade, the massive worldwide conversion of learning content from print and other older media on to digital networks has created gatekeepers who limit access to their digital content or require online users to pay for it.

A variety of gatekeepers have made a third choice:
to open their content freely into the Internet.
These are their storie

October 6, 2006

The Mars Rovers still working
Missions extended x 10

rover views
Shots from each of the Rovers in October 2006
NASA Gallery

In January 2004, two Mars Rovers landed on Mars. These remarkable machine are named Spirit and Opportunity. Their missions have been successful in many dimensions, the most surprising being that they were both still underway in the fall of 2006. The Rovers are extensively documented by NASA on a website called Mars Exploration Rover Mission — an online except that is a standout open education resource.

Before there was an Internet, no such education resource could exist. The online interface of the activities of the Rovers makes it possible for students to observe a major scientific event almost as it is happening—and sometimes in real time. The authorities for what the students learn from are the scientists and engineers running the project. Students can further learn from actual data. Adding permanent value is the fact that what NASA puts online stays there, so that the webpages accumlate into a networked resource for future students.

Spirit and Opportunity are virtually showing Mars to students on Earth.

A March 6, 2006 NASA press release included this explanation of how enormously meaningful the Rovers are proving scientifically. Because the mission has been continually online through, the open education value is enormous as well:
rover report

"This is a tremendous example of how our Mars missions in orbit and on the surface are designed to reinforce each other and expand our ability to explore and discover," said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program in Washington. "You can only achieve this compelling level of exploration capability with the sustained exploration approach we are conducting at Mars through integrated orbiters and landers."

"The combination of the ground-level and aerial view is much more powerful than either alone," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. Squyres is principal investigator for Opportunity and its twin, Spirit. "If you were a geologist driving up to the edge of a crater in your jeep, the first thing you would do would be to pick up the aerial photo you brought with you and use it to understand what you're seeing from ground level. That's exactly what we're doing here."