NASA's Spirit rover stuck for good
Starts new life as stationary robot
Spirit's days of wandering the Martian landscape are over, as NASA resigns itself to leaving the bogged-down rover in place to survive the Red Planet's winter.
The space agency said Tuesday that it's ending efforts to extricate the robot from the loose soil where it's been trapped since April. Spirit will instead continue to function as a stationary science platform – so long as it makes it through the harsh winter months.
“Spirit has encountered a golfer's worst nightmare: the sand trap that no matter how many strokes you take, you can't get out of,” said Doug McCuistion, Director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program. “It's driving days are likely over,” he told journalists during a teleconference.
NASA's new plan for the next few weeks is to jostle Spirit into place where it's solar arrays can soak in as much sunlight as possible. In past winters, a then-mobile Spirit had been able to position itself to allow for maximum sun exposure. But its current fix has left Spirit caught at an unfavorable tilt.
Spirit's electronics are designed to withstand temperatures of about -40° Fahrenheit while operating and -67° F in hibernation mode, according to NASA. Scientists predict the Martian winter – which begins in May – will see temperatures drop below -40° F, leaving no other option than to abandon rescue plans.
Time is now of the essence to position the rover for the Martian winter. Solar power is expected to become insufficient to power any further driving by mid-February, giving NASA only a few weeks to prepare the rover.
“Getting through the winter will all come down to temperature and how cold the rover electronics will get,” said John Callas, project manager for Spirit at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a prepared statement. “Every bit of energy produced by Spirit's solar arrays will go into keeping the rover's critical electronics warm, either by having the electronics on or by turning on essential heaters.”
If Spirit wakes up in the spring, NASA intends to give the machine new life as a stationary science platform.
“This is not a day to mourn Spirit. This is not a day of loss,” said McCuistion. “Spirit will continue to make contributions to science and the understanding of Mars. It will continue to excite the public globally, I believe.”
NASA said there's a class of experiments that only a stationary vehicle can do that the agency has put off during its six years of Martian mobility. One is to begin studies of tiny wobbles in the rotation of Mars in order to determine if the core is liquid or solid. Tools on Spirit's robotic arm can also examine the composition of nearby soil. Spirit can also watch how wind pushes the soil across the terrain from its new permanent home on Mars. ®
So you want a title, eh?
"“It's driving days are likely over,” he told journalists during a teleconference.
NASA's new plan for the next few weeks is to jostle Spirit into place where it's solar arrays""
Translating: "It is driving days [...] into place where it is solar arrays [...]" (yes, the apostrophe denotes a contraction...)
When will this mauling of the English language stop? I'm (translation: "I am") willing to put up with this happening in comments, which may reasonably be assumed to be written by people who are not schooled in journalism and the proper use of language; in a main-page article, I find this sort of mangling of the language offensive. I hereby give notice that I am not exempt from the occasional typo, but the repeated misusage of contractions where they are not appropriate within the same article, in my humble opinion, cannot be an accident. I do recognize the holiness of the quote, as in the first part of the article I quoted. In the second part, which was not a quote within the context of the article, I find myself offended, especially since this sort of language disuse has rencently begun to proliferate at El Reg.
Sorry if I trod on anybody's toes with this one... I just think there is a wee bit of difference between expressions like "its" and "it is."
Tell your Roomba to.....
...pray for Spirit
Couldn't you just, you know, stroll over there and help the poor little fella out? Since you *are* from Mars and all.