• Aug 19th 2009 at 2:20PM
  • 11
Quick -- what's got six wheels, lives on Mars and has been stuck in a sand trap named Troy since May 1 of this year? If you answered, "NASA's Spirit Rover," pat yourself on the back. Spirit, along with its twin rover Opportunity, was only supposed to provide three months of Martian exploration. Incredibly, both Spirit and Opportunity are still kicking, having lasted over 20 times longer than initial NASA projections. In fact, Spirit just passed a major milestone as a result of it having landed on the Red Planet before its twin: 2,000 days on the job. Longer than that, actually, as Martian days (called "sols") take longer than our earth days. To wit, Spirit had been on Mars for 2,000 earth days a few weeks ago, but yesterday marked 2,000 sols.

Sadly, reports indicate that Spirit has been stuck in sand for the last several months. One of its wheels has died and there appears to be a rock jutting up into the robot rover's belly pan. Worse, Spirit's downhill facing wheels have spun so much that they've buried themselves in the loose sand. Luckily, Martian winds have been potent enough to blow most of the dust off Spirit's solar arrays and the robot has plenty of power.

Back here on Earth, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists have been working with a replica of Spirit in a sand box, trying to duplicate its sticky predicament and devise a solution. They did this four years ago when Opportunity became mired in a sand dune named Purgatory, then – as now – using techniques you might use to free your car from a snow drift. If all goes well, the scientists will be able to send freeing instructions to Spirit during the second week of September.

You can follow all of Spirits ups and downs as well as the earthbound rescue planning on NASA's cleverly named Free Spirit website.

[Source: MSNBC Cosmic Log]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      One, are they eligible for "cash for clunkers" and two, how to bring them in to the dealer?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I really love what they've achieved with these rovers.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It will be stripped and sitting on blocks soon.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I see the problem, next put some bigger wheels on it!

      (probably a reason why they did it, but still......)
      • 6 Years Ago
      Now if they can only figure out how to make cars last 20 times longer than expected ;)
        • 6 Years Ago
        Done. It's called a Toyota. :)
        • 6 Years Ago
        If you are willing to pay 100x the price. ;)
      • 6 Years Ago
      Amazing stuff. This should be making bigger news.

      A little vehicle, on another planet, can run for 2000 days on nothing but the Sun! This is awesome stuff and should be celebrated more than it is.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Agreed! All we hear about is Michael Jackson. Meanwhile, there is cool stuff like this going on and no one knows about it
      • 6 Years Ago
      NASA is a government funded program. Ergo, it's SOCIALISM!!!!!!! COMMUNISM!!!! THY"RE GOING TO KILL GRANDMA!!!!

      Here in Houston, home of Johnson Space Center, I have to argue with people on why investing in science & tech is good for the country. Instead, I have to argue with AM talk radio enthusiasts.

      If only hot air could power spaceships....
        • 6 Years Ago
        Space-related stuff is far from anyting what you could call a (free) market. Which means that you can hardly suggest an analogy with what has happened with GM and Chrysler.
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