Spirit Is Stuck

Since November Spacers has kept an eye on the progress of the ongoing rescue attempts aimed at freeing the Mars rover, Spirit. Sadly today, NASA and JPL announced that the rover is officially stuck. All of their attempts to rescue the plucky rover from a patch of soft sand in a crater named Troy have failed, and the data gathered from each of the attempts is now sufficient for them to abandon any further rescue efforts. Six years after beginning its 90 day operational mission, Spirit will roam no more. I know it is only a robot - a lump of metal and circuits, but this is truly a sad day. Spirit, along with its twin rover Opportunity, have been a runaway success story of exploration and have far surpassed any expectations of them. If both rovers had been disabled after their 90 days of expected life they would have been considered a success, but to roam the red planet for six years a piece is just an outstanding technical achievement for NASA's JPL team, who have kept them alive throughout.

Spirit. Its days of roaming Mars are officially over

The good news is that despite this setback, Spirit is far from dead. The mobility portion of its mission has ended, but Spirit is still a fully functioning science platform, and even though it hasn't been moving for the last year it has been returning data, albeit from the same location. This isn't a bad thing though, as Spirit can now watch a single area of Mars as it changes over the course of a year, and of course as the years go by.

As NASA said in its announcement today, "Spirit no longer will be a fully mobile robot. NASA has designated the once-roving scientific explorer a stationary science platform..."

Good and bad news, yes, but I have mixed feelings about this. I can't help but think this was a decision taken at a business level - why waste any more resources on freeing the thing when it can function fine where it is. Still, they are the ones calling the shots and it is their budget after all. I have a feeling though, that if the engineers had been left to their own devices, maybe not tomorrow, or next month, but at some point in the not too distant future they would have had us all popping champagne corks as the first images came back from a freed rover of the place it had been stuck for so long.

We'll have to wait until we go to Mars ourselves before we can pick Spirit up and drop her down on hard ground again to continue her roving mission. Yes, of course she'll still be working!

Wait... did I just refer to her... as a her?!

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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MsWild said...

If it were a "her" it wouldn't be stuck. It's definitely a "him". For gosh sake - look at the front!

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