Is this the beginning of the end for Spirit, one of NASA’s Mars exploration Rovers?
Almost 6 years ago, Spirit and Opportunity, two NASA’s Jet Porpulsion Labortary’s rovers landed on Mars for its primary mission of obtaining geological clues about whether parts of the Red Planet formerly had environments wet enough to be hospitable to life. The longetivity of the 2 robots in the extreme climate of Mars has astounded everyone, including its designers and engineers. Their original mission was only 3 months. NASA said the rovers had made important discoveries about the wet and violent conditions on ancient Mars. However, since April this year Spirit has been bogged in soft sand and its JPL minders are feverishly trying to execute an escape plan. Go, Spirit!
There is something quintessentially romantic about two lonely robots driving around for 6 years in a barren (lifeless?) planet more than 35 million miles away from home. I have tracked the adventures of the two rovers here since Spirit landed on January 3, 2004, and Opportunity touching down 21 days later. A good book to read about these robots is Steve Squyres’.