Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What do you call a rover that is stuck? Answer: A LANDER!

Sadly, it seems that our little rover, Spirit, is pretty much stuck in the sands of Mars and unable to dig itself out.  But Spirit isn't dead, just stuck.  A clip from the official NASA press release:

After six years of unprecedented exploration of the Red Planet, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit no longer will be a fully mobile robot. NASA has designated the once-roving scientific explorer a stationary science platform after efforts during the past several months to free it from a sand trap have been unsuccessful. The venerable robot's primary task in the next few weeks will be to position itself to combat the severe Martian winter. If Spirit survives, it will continue conducting significant new science from its final location.
 Rather than trying to crawl out of the trap, the rover drivers will attempt to tilt the rover enough to maintain a better solar panel angle to the sun.  If not, the rover may go to sleep sometime in May.  Will it bet totally dead?  Possibly not, it may simply go into hibernation.
I won't go into the details too deep, Emily at The Planetary Society has a good detailed description of how this might work.  While Spirit hunkers down for the winter, her sister Oppy is running across the dunes like a dog chasing a stick!  Next stop is Concepcion crater which appears to be a fairly new impact crater.
Can't complain too much, this is quite a way past the 90 day warranty!

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