After months of tests and analysis, engineers plan to beam commands to NASA’s Spirit Mars rover Monday, kicking off a long-awaited attempt to free the hardy craft from the talcum powder-like soil of a hidden crater that trapped it last April.
“Spirit’s facing the most challenging situation it’s seen yet on the surface of Mars,” Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars exploration program, said Thursday. “We know a lot of people around the world…view Spirit with great affection, exploring the Red Planet along with it, experiencing the excitement, seeing new and exciting vistas, seeing new landscapes, uncovering some incredible new knowledge about our sister planet.
. . .
“I’d like everybody to be hopeful, but I’d also like them to be realistic,” he said. “If Spirit cannot make the great escape from this sand trap, it’s likely that this lonely spot, straddling the edge of this crater, might be where Spirit ends its adventures on Mars.”
. . .
Last April 23, the six-wheel Spirit was slowly rolling backward on the western side of a feature known as “Home Plate,” heading toward the south and a pair of volcanic structures that scientists wanted to examine. The rover was driving backward because its right front wheel stopped working in 2006.
The ground to the south of Spirit looked normal, but as it rolled along, its wheels broke through an upper-crust-like layer of soil and into a softer, unseen material.
“Essentially, the rover was driving on what we call a dirt crust,” said John Callas, the project manager of the Mars exploration rovers at JPL. “It was a hard surface that we broke through, and underneath this material, camouflaged underneath, was this loose, fine material where the rover is challenged right now.”
Scientists later determined that Spirit’s path was straddling the rim of an ancient, 26-foot-wide crater just beneath the surface. The crater was filled in with sulfate sands that formed layers with different compositions.
Initial attempts to drive out in a crablike fashion by turning the front and back wheels in the same direction only made matters worse.
NASA to try to free stuck Mars rover Spirit
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Spirit Rover Wiggles Her Wheels
Mars Exploration Rover Mission
Well, this seems to be quite the heroic rescue attempt for a rover that’s already five years past its three month life expectancy. Go NASA!
/what’s really amazing is that Obama hasn’t canceled this project yet, it must be costing quite a bit of money that he could be wasting on pet Democrat social boondoggles like ACORN instead
Filed under: Blog Entry | Tagged: ACORN, Barack Obama, Crater, Doug McCuistion, Home Plate, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, John Callas, JPL, Mars, Mars Exploration Program, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Rover, NASA, National Aeronautics And Space Administration, Red Planet, Rover, Space Exploration, Spirit, Spirit Rover, Volcanic Structures | Leave a comment »