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The Little Rover That Could



NASA's Spirit rover {wiki} landed on Mars in 2004. After its planned 90-day mission, the rover kept on working for another six years. Last May, it became stuck in soft soil and could no longer rove, but continued analyzing the Martian environment. Now NASA has decided to put the rover into hibernation mode at least until temperatures rise on Mars, which could be six months.
Despite the science that can be done at the site, the probable end of Spirit’s career as a mobile unit seemed discouraging to JPL rover driver, Ashley Stroupe. A week and a half ago, the rover team changed their approach to getting the rover unstuck and experienced much greater success.

“We had a tremendous amount of hope,” Stroupe said.

In the end, though, they ran out of time. Now, their main task is positioning the rover to capture the greatest amount of solar energy possible: The rover is currently tilted south, away from the sun in the northern sky. If they can reduce the tilt, Spirit may be able to periodically communicate with Earth throughout the winter. If they can’t, it will be a long, silent winter for the robot.

Link

The image above is a portion of a fitting tribute to Spirit at xkcd. Link

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