Mars Rover Still Stuck After Wheel Stall

Beleaguered Mars rover Spirit is still stuck in a patch of soft sand after another attempt by NASA to free it ended with a wheel stalling. This time though, the stall is suspected to be because of a technical problem with the wheel actuator itself. A previous attempt where the wheel stalled gave engineers the impression that the wheel was actually spinning in the soft sand, which caused them to abort the attempt.

Spirit stuck in sand

Rover project engineers are developing diagnostic tests to explore the health of the wheel actuator and to isolate any interactions that could have potentially been caused by terrain. NASA is taking its time to analyze and plan the next move, which will hinge on the results of the diagnostic tests.

According to the NASA JPL website, the rover has moved as a result of the rescue attempts. The details of the movement are: the rover has performed 9.5 meters (31 feet) of wheel spin and the rover's center, in total, has moved 16 millimeters (0.63 inch) forward, 10 millimeters (0.39 inch) to the left and 5 millimeters (0.20 inch) downward.

All very well, but to me the "downward" movement is a little on the ominous side - sounds more like digging in deeper. Spacers wishes the JPL team and Spirit good luck in the next attempt.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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