An Engineer's perspective looking back: 5 years [continued]

[continued from here]

far as anyone expected, at Launch Day we were already over the longest
part of the mission – development and testing.  We'd spent 3 years
doing our parts to build and test both of our rovers.  The cruise phase
and nominal mission length together added up to less than a year.

the launch of the rockets, there's a 7 month long cruise stage, often
described as "7 months of boredom".  On this particular launch, though,
the cosmos conspired to interrupt the boredom.  The sun coughed and
emitted one of the most energetic flares recorded.  Our rovers were
bathed in a stream of highly energetic radiation, but we took cues from
earlier missions and took measures to protect the rovers.  The measures
taken by Mission Control worked, though the solar panels on the cruise
stage were slightly damaged by ions, the rovers themselves were

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