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Spirit rover stuck in the Martian sand

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#1 Captain_Hair



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Posted 13 May 2009 - 11:54 AM

Posted ImageSpirit rover stuck in the Martian sand
Written by Derek Kessler

It’s not quicksand or anything, but it is a soft spot on the Martian surface and it’s got the Spirit rover all jammed up. All five working wheels (one of the six is broken and does nothing) are unable to gain traction in the soft sand and have been spinning without purchase, digging about halfway down instead. The Earth-bound rover operation team has suspended driving Spirit until then can figure out what, if anything the can do to free the five-year old rover.

In NASA style, they will take the time to study the surface surrounding Spirit (as well as continue with their usual science stuff) and will then build a simulation test bed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to try out with a test rover. The process could take weeks, but will be greatly assisted by Spirit’s onboard science instruments that will allow the engineers to easily replicate the consistency of the Martian sand.

Spirit has been fighting to stay alive for three years now ever since its right front wheel froze (each of the six wheels is independently powered). Now the rover is drive in reverse, dragging the wheel behind it. And just last month Spirit’s computer mysteriously rebooted several times, resulting in a partial memory dumb and trouble reestablishing communications. It’s been three weeks since the bout of technological glitches struck the rover, and though they haven’t surfaced again, NASA’s engineers are working to discover the root cause.

Spirit is not alone in this battle, though. It’s twin, Opportunity, suffered a similar incident in 2005, getting itself stuck in a sand dune. In the end, mission control used the rover’s robotic arm to dig itself up and out of the sand, and now Opportunity is roaming free on the other side of Mars, and reportedly sent a “Get Well Soon” card to Spirit upon hearing the news.

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