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The Mars exploration rovers surface fault protection design was influenced by the need for the solar powered rovers to recharge their batteries during the day to survive the night. The rovers were required to autonomously maintain thermal stability, and initiate reliable communication with orbiting assets or directly to Earth, while maintaining their energy balance. This paper describes the system fault protection design for the surface phase of the mission, including hardware descriptions and software algorithms. Additionally, a few in-flight experiences are described, including the Spirit flash memory anomaly and the Opportunity "stuck-on" heater failure.