Martian Spirit

After six long years of amazing service to NASA, it looks like the Spirit rover has finally met its match in the form of deep sand in a Martian crater. NASA has declared that they will now abandon efforts to try and free the rover from the trap and instead focus on trying to keep it alive over the upcoming Martian winter. It became stuck in the sand at the crater some time ago and they've been trying to wiggle it free for a few months now but have had limited success due to a damaged wheel on the front. More recently they tried to drive it backward to free it, but apparently it's just getting bogged down more. Now they're worried because the angle of its solar panels is not optimal and it may not get enough power to last. Assuming it does survive, they'll be more or less turning it into a stationary science lab.

When the two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, were first sent to Mars six years ago, neither one was expected to perform much past 90 days because the battery design wasn't built for it. These two troopers have long since outlived even the wildest hopes of most scientists and they've been reaping vast amounts of data they may not otherwise have been able to get. So even if Spirit kicks the bucket and dies in the next few months, NASA has every reason to be proud of what they've accomplished. Also, keep in mind, Opportunity is still out there chugging along exploring the planet and shows no signs of bowing out any time soon.

So give a shout out to NASA. Congratulations on an amazing project, and here's to six more years with Opportunity.
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

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Posted on Jan 26, 2010 8:41 pm by Samson in: | 5 comment(s) [Closed]
While I agree that it's good to hear Opportunity is still out there chugging along and that even with the loss of mobility Spirit is still going to prove useful yet as a stationary science lab, one has to wonder why they didn't change the design of the batteries before sending it if they knew there were problems with it that they expected to prevent these two units from being operational more than the 90 days.

Well as I remember it, Spirit and Opportunity were both experimental probes that were really only intended to be initial test rovers. So they didn't figure on needing to give them sophisticated battery systems. They were mainly to see if the actual drive systems and general design were viable at all. Talk about a hugely successful first attempt. Just imagine what they might be able to pull off with a more advanced design with batteries intended to last years. :)

Sounds like a VERY expensive test run to me, but otherwise, I would have to agree. If they'd had battery systems that were actually intended to last years and the batteries out-performed expectations as well as these models did.. they might just be able to map all of mars and then some. :)

Obligatory xkcd:

*LOL* Very nice find, Dwip. :D

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