SPIRIT! “Another phase of its long life.”

The efforts to free the Martian rover Spirit have failed.

Spirit is now imitating life.

From NASA with my emphases and comments:

WASHINGTON — After six years of unprecedented exploration of the Red Planet, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit no longer will be a fully mobile robot. [sigh]  NASA has designated the once-roving scientific explorer a stationary science platform after efforts during the past several months to free it from a sand trap have been unsuccessful.

The venerable robot’s primary task in the next few weeks will be to position itself to combat the severe Martian winter. If Spirit survives, it will continue conducting significant new science from its final location. The rover’s mission could continue for several months to years.

"Spirit is not dead; it has just entered another phase of its long life," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We told the world last year that attempts to set the beloved robot free may not be successful. It looks like Spirit’s current location on Mars will be its final resting place."

Ten months ago, as Spirit was driving south beside the western edge of a low plateau called Home Plate, its wheels broke through a crusty surface and churned into soft sand hidden underneath.


"We need to lift the rear of the rover, or the left side of the rover, or both," said Ashley Stroupe, a rover driver at JPL. "Lifting the rear wheels out of their ruts by driving backward and slightly uphill will help. If necessary, we can try to lower the front right of the rover by attempting to drop the right-front wheel into a rut or dig it into a hole."

At its current angle, Spirit probably would not have enough power to keep communicating with Earth through the Martian winter. Even a few degrees of improvement in tilt might make enough difference to enable communication every few days.


"There’s a class of science we can do only with a stationary vehicle that we had put off during the years of driving," said Steve Squyres, a researcher at Cornell University and principal investigator for Spirit and Opportunity. "Degraded mobility does not mean the mission ends abruptly. Instead, it lets us transition to stationary science."


Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004. They have been exploring for six years, far surpassing their original 90-day mission. Opportunity currently is driving toward a large crater called Endeavor and continues to make scientific discoveries. It has driven approximately 12 miles and returned more than 133,000 images.

Metaphors for life at different stages.

Originally designed for 90 days, Spirit has been crawling around for 6 years.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jon says:


    Originally designed for 90 days, Spirit of Vatican II has been crawling around for 45 years.

  2. ghlad says:

    I hope that one day we can recapture this lil’ bugger and bring him home.

  3. jrobinson says:

    Hi Father Z,
    My friend Mike is also a Spirit driver at JPL and says that this report is misleading and they have not at all given up on getting Spirit moving again. Here is a post from his facebook page:
    “to clarify things: Spirit is NOT currently stationary. She will move to an orientation to survive the Martian winter. Once into Martian spring Spirit will begin a stationary radio science campaign. We can’t move for 6 months for SCIENCE reasons. Once all of that is done we can evaluate working towards extrication once again and moving to new interesting areas with our four working wheels.”

  4. Ferde Rombola says:

    If they had a real ‘intelligent designer’ they wouldn’t have this problem.

  5. ghp95134 says:

    Spirit is willing, but its drive-train is weak.

    NASA-Ames Research Center

  6. EXCHIEF says:

    Doesn’t matter. His highness king obama decreed last night in the SOTU address that we are done with space exploration and NASA, by his decree, is now charged with work directed to resolve global warming. Until little Barry is replaced it looks like we don’t care to continue exploring the moon much less returning there for any reason.

  7. Random Friar says:

    C’mon guys, some respect for Spirit and its engineers. Think of how this thing traveled so far, and has worked so well beyond expectations in a most hostile clime and is still trying to putz along!

    When we build a colony on Mars, I say we name the first city Spirit.

  8. Supertradmom says:

    I am fond of Spirit-reminds me of an older sibling of K-9–http://www.gadgettastic.com/images/dr_who_k9.jpg

  9. Athelstan says:

    “Originally designed for 90 days, Spirit has been crawling around for 6 years.”

    Talk about exceeding expectations.

  10. Michael in NoVA says:

    Indeed, Spirit and Opportunity are indeed some of NASA’s greatest successes. Just as the Hubble has continued to provide astounding images well-beyond its expected lifespan, these two little rovers continue to do amazing things. I don’t think anyone at NASA dreamed that they would last this long even in their wildest dreams. Whenever they shut down for good, the only appropriate response should be “well-done, good and faithful robots.”

  11. jrobinson: That is GREAT news! Thanks for that!

  12. threej says:

    LOL uptoncp, I was about the post the exact same thing!

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