Wednesday, May 25, 2011

NASA’s Mars Rover: Farewell Spirit, you served us well

NASA’s Spirit rover looks like it is going to fade away due to the harsh Martian winter.

The space agency said it has ended attempts to gain contact with the Spirit rover.

According to NASA, the Spirit rover last communicated on March 22, 2010. NASA said it will make one final attempt to day.

The hope was that the Spirit may reawaken once it got more solar energy. It appears that components were damaged without its heaters.

NASA statement:
Engineers’ assessments in recent months have shown a very low probability for recovering communications with Spirit.

Communications assets that have been used by the Spirit mission in the past, including NASA’s Deep Space Network of antennas on Earth, plus two NASA Mars orbiters that can relay communications, now are needed to prepare for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission. MSL is scheduled to launch later this year.

Spirit landed in early 2004 amid much fanfare. The rover was designed to last three months. Spirit’s twin, Opportunity, continues to explore Mars.

The Future
NASA is planning to launch a new rover called Curiosity in November.

Spirit has returned a ton of data to NASA about Mars, including photos, soil samples, thermal readings and other items.

Meanwhile, NASA has captured Spirit’s entire project log via an update page. The last year has been disappointing, but Spirit had an extended life and notched up a lot of small victories.

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