Spirit Rover Remains Stuck

The Mars rover Spirit has been stuck in sand since April when it was driven on to a patch of terrain that turned out to be softer than anticipated. Plans have been drawn up in the intervening months to attempt a rescue of the plucky rover by literally driving it out of the sand using whichever of its six wheels that have the most traction. The team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) even replicated the conditions on Earth using a twin of the Opportunity rover and a sand pit, and today they got their first chance to free the rover.

Preparing to test the escape at JPL

The tenuous first steps were more about gathering data than actually escaping though. Panoramic photographs of the wheels show that there is possibly a rock impeding one of the wheels, which will greatly complicate the procedure. Essentially the move was a small reversal of the route that got the rover where it is currently stuck. The data is being carefully analyzed and the JPL team are in no hurry, preparing instead to take the time to get it right even if it takes a few weeks of small moves. The next attempt will be no earlier than Wednesday.

Spirit has been roving around Mars for nearly six years, much longer than its planned mission duration of 90 days. Together with its twin rover Opportunity, they have been one of the most successful Mars missions to date.

Wish Spirit good luck, Spacers!

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Digg this