After nearly ten months and countless efforts at twisting, turning and rocking for traction, NASA has conceded defeat in its effort to free the Mars rover Spirit from a sand trap near the Martian equator. But though the rover will likely never coast over the Martian landscape again, researchers do expect it to survive the upcoming winter and serve as a static science station going forward.
During its six-year stint on Mars, Spirit and its sister craft Opportunity have snapped thousands of images of the inhospitable surface and beamed back invaluable data to researchers on the ground that have spawned over 100 scholastic papers. It was Spirit that found and analyzed rocks and soil that showed extensive exposure to water in the past, changing the way researchers form theories about the Red Planet's past.
But Spirit lost operation in one of its six wheels years ago and another has ceased function since handlers began trying to free it from its sand trap. As such, even if the researchers could get it free it would likely have trouble negotiating the Martian frontier.
Therefore, NASA has reprioritized its objectives, focusing on adjusting its northerly tilt so its solar panels will be in the best position to survived the Martian winter, during which temps will hit -49 degrees. But its electronics are expected to survive, meaning Spirit should revive come spring and serve as a stationary observation station.
In the meantime, in the spirit of Spirit, Opportunity rolls on.
Boy this was a strange turn of events I was just talking about how well they done over the last two Sol's and how far they have come and now this.
Look at the progress they made In this time lapse movie here:
By looking at the above link NASA may not yet know about the progress it made over the last 2 sols.
I will bet that NASA is like that 120 foot long dinosaurs, it feels a tingle in its tail and it takes over two days later for it register in its brains.....
They didn't try lifting it up with its arm or pushing or pulling. Come on people its a freaken robot arm use it. At least use it as a movable weight to rock da boat.
These robots are like real living creatures, losing one of them feels terrible.
I wonder how those scientists feel when they were told that spirit would roll no more.
Spirit and Opportunity are both one of NASA's most successful missions during its time of creation to present.
Animemaster if you had looked into this at all, you would know the load capability of the arm is not anywhere close to high enough to affect the rover's movement. Do some background before trying to bash the world's smartest minds.
Agreed science#s, I've only been following these girls for a little over a year and I feel attached. By far the most successful program I know about for time beyond original mission. There are two great Nova documentaries about them, I suggest them highly.
CoolHand032 Leverage trig it out.
Haha I just finished an experiment this weekend where I tested tread, wheel, and walking designs for Mars rovers. I'm sure NASA has done something similar before, but it seems like treads could have kept this from happening.
animemaster: Important scientific instruments at the end of the arm that they wouldn't risk damaging anyway. Why get movement back if you can't do any more science? But again, the rovers weigh ~150lbs on Mars and the arm couldn't hold enough load to take any off certain wheels or on others to reduce/increase friction. So I'm not just acting like I know things without anything to back it up, check out the tweets from marsroverdriver.
musicman: The big problems (from my understanding) are that the wheels can only rotate so fast, the sand is as fine as flour, and two of the wheels (both on the same side) have essentially failed. I don't know how much treads could have prevented it from falling through the crust, since (as an example) no matter how well the weight is distributed, if you're on thin enough ice, you can't prevent breaking it. Once through, there's a 20 minute delay or something during which the rover continued to drive while the operators had no idea it was digging itself a grave.
Another problem with tracks is what are you gonna make them out of? A soft rubber or kevlar type of track would eventually disintegrate under the temperature extremes and dry conditions on mars. Also, all that fine sand would have eaten the track up by now by slowly wearing at the track as it moved. A metal one would fill with sand at its joints and eventually be too stiff to move. Plus no matter what type of track you put on there they designed these to be able to navigate over rocks and rough terrain without rocking the equipment too much. A track would not offer that kind of manuverability. Either way considering these two had a 90 day expected lifespan these rovers have been amazing. Has to be one of the best investments Nasa has made in quite some time.
these missions (spirit and opportunity) have been firsts of their kind, and problems should be expected. but it's amazing how much longer they have been operating than planned. they have provided us with countless amounts of information. I hope NASA learns from their mistakes to make the next rovers (i have no doubt there will be) even better.
Yeah, we spend a lot of money on our space program and everything in general here in the US, and other countries do it for cheaper.
Who knows what the difference is?!
The US does things right. Spirit was intended for a 90 day mission and we used it for 6 years roving. Now its going to do more experiments of a completely different type for who knows how long
ok first of all it was suppose to last longer than 90 days. im guessing the only reason they gave it 90 days is like a doctor always will tell u the worst case scenario because if he says they should be fine for two years and not to worry about it and they die in 3 months then there going to get sued. so if NASA on the other hand was to say this machine should be operational for years and it gets stuck in the sand in 5 months they would probably lose some funding for that department.
second the six wheel idea was bound to fail! I'm quite surprised it lasted as long as it did. they should have had a backup for if they get stuck such as a claw as they mentioned. or i would suggest putting tracks on side or bottom of the housing unit or whatever that box under the solar panels is and make it so it can use the track or the wheels or both and ps a metal track molded wit a rubber/composite compound would not disintegrate and as for sand getting stuck they could easily make a vacuum to blow or suck it of the track
thirdly there are many types of wheels/tracks designs that that would have better for this such as one of these
and one last thing they could have made a simple sonar to detect how compact or loose the sand is and automaticly stop if it scenes very loose sand