Image Source: NASA / JPL / Cornell / Glen Nagle via Planetary Society.
Caption for the above photograph: Spirit is just a tiny insect on the shoulder of Home Plate in this artist's rendition showing the rover's position where she became bogged down at "Troy." The panorama was taken by the rover on sol 743 as she descended from Husband Hill toward Home Plate. Home Plate is the plateau occupying the center of the image; the rover is in the valley to its right.
According to the Planetary Society, today is the last day NASA will attempt to contact the rover Spirit, also known as Mars Exploration Rover - A (MER-A). The rover became stuck in soft soil on 1 May 2009. Wiki: "As of May 2011[update], the last communication with the rover was on sol 2210 (March 22, 2010)." From a New York Times report:
The poet Cuttlefish has penned an ode to the rover here. The poem reflects on how we perceived the robot as a live creature. A good example of that anthropomorphization is xkcd's famous cartoon of Spirit working past its 90 allotted days, below:The golf cart-size rovers were an instant hit with the public who followed the rovers' every move as they rolled across the Martian plains and stopped to drill into rocks.
Their greatest achievement was uncovering geologic evidence that Mars, now dry and dusty, was far more tropical billions of years ago. The red planet was toastier and wetter, conditions that suggest the ancient environment could have been favorable for microbial life.
As far as sibling rivalry went, Opportunity was the overachiever while Spirit was every bit the drama queen underdog.
Soon after landing, Spirit went into critical condition and sent nonsense data back to Earth. Engineers had to nurse it back from the brink of death.
Unlike Opportunity, which landed in an ancient lakebed awash with water-forming minerals, Spirit plopped into a Connecticut-sized crater named Gusev that contained limited hints of past water.
Spirit had no choice but to trek toward the hills to make discoveries. It managed to shine despite having a rocky start on Mars.
In 2005, Spirit scaled a mountain the height of the Statute of Liberty. It also was the first to record Martian dust devils as they formed, which NASA later made into movie clips.
Image © xkcd/Randall Munroe.
See the dust devils and a map of Spirit's journey below the jump.
Spirit's journey, from the landing site (top left) up to sol 1506 (April 02,2008). Image Source: NASA / N. W. Beeson via Wiki.
Opportunity is still running on the Meridani Plane at the Equator. Spirit is bogged down on the other side of the planet, some 15 degrees south of the Equator. Sadly, while Opportunity soldiers on, we won't get any more surface views of the Columbia Hills anytime soon. One day perhaps, humans exploring the Gusev Crater will find Spirit and place the lost, frozen rover in a Mars museum, gazing in awe at the primitive technology of the turn of Millennium, which went hand in hand with our spirit of enterprise.
Spirit's 2005 Martian dust devils. Video Source: NASA via Youtube.
See all my posts on Mars.
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