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Mars Rover still alive, but stuck for good

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After six years of exploring Mars, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit is stuck for good, the space agency announced Tuesday.

"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 agency said.

"Spirit is not dead; it has just entered another phase of its long life," Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a news release. "It looks like Spirit's current location on Mars will be its final resting place."

NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004 for a 90-day mission that has lasted for six years. Opportunity currently is driving toward a large crater called Endeavor and continues to make scientific discoveries, NASA said.

Spirit's wheels broke through a crusty surface and churned into soft sand 10 months ago, as the rover was driving south beside the western edge of a low plateau called Home Plate. The six-wheeled vehicle already had lost function in one wheel in 2006, and another wheel quit working in November.

"Recent drives have yielded the best results since Spirit became embedded. However, the coming winter mandates a change in strategy," NASA said. "Winter will begin in May. Solar energy is declining and expected to become insufficient to power further driving by mid-February."

At its current angle, Spirit probably would not have enough power to keep communicating with Earth through the Martian winter, NASA said. The agency plans to try to tilt Spirit to the north, to best catch the winter sunshine on its solar panels.

"We need to lift the rear of the rover, or the left side of the rover, or both," Ashley Stroupe, a rover driver at JPL, said in the release. "Lifting the rear wheels out of their ruts by driving backward and slightly uphill will help. If necessary, we can try to lower the front right of the rover by attempting to drop the right-front wheel into a rut or dig it into a hole."

John Callas, project manager at JPL for Spirit and Opportunity, said the rover will use its energy to keep critical electronics warm, either by having the electronics on or by turning on essential heaters.

Spirit could continue research in a stationary mode from months or years, NASA said.

"There's a class of science we can do only with a stationary vehicle that we had put off during the years of driving," Steve Squyres, a researcher at Cornell University and principal investigator for Spirit and Opportunity, said.

One stationary experiment Spirit has started studies tiny wobbles in Mars' rotation by radio tracking a point on the planet's surface for months to provide insight about the planet's core.

"If the final scientific feather in Spirit's cap is determining whether the core of Mars is liquid or solid, that would be wonderful," Squyres said. "It's so different from the other knowledge we've gained from Spirit."

Tools on Spirit's robotic arm can study variations in the composition of nearby soil, which has been affected by water, NASA said. It said the rover also could watch how wind moves soil particles and monitor the Martian atmosphere.

Heres the link for space.com too:


These rovers have lasted forever. O_O


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Poor poor thing :( ... but it's a good thing for Rover in terms of branding and reliability.

I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

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