We’ve got Spirit, yes we do! We’ve got Spirit… well… not so much.

Sad news from NASA:

NASA Concludes Attempts to Contact Mars Rover Spirit
The full version of this story with accompanying images is HERE.

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA is ending attempts to regain contact with the long-lived Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, which last communicated on March 22, 2010.
A transmission that will end on Wednesday, May 25, will be the last in a series of attempts. Extensive communications activities during the past 10 months also have explored the possibility that Spirit might reawaken as the solar energy available to it increased after a stressful Martian winter without much sunlight. With inadequate energy to run its survival heaters, the rover likely experienced colder internal temperatures last year than in any of its prior six years on Mars. Many critical components and connections would have been susceptible to damage from the cold.
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.
“We’re now transitioning assets to support the November launch of our next generation Mars rover, Curiosity,” said Dave Lavery, NASA’s program executive for solar system exploration. “However, while we no longer believe there is a realistic probability of hearing from Spirit, the Deep Space Network may occasionally listen for any faint signals when the schedule permits.”
Spirit landed on Mars on Jan. 3, 2004, for a mission designed to last three months. After accomplishing its prime-mission goals, Spirit worked to accomplish additional objectives. Its twin, Opportunity, continues active exploration of Mars.

One of the readers here, who works for NASA, sent me a Spirit mission patch.

The rover program has been an amazing success.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I’m going slightly off-topic, Father, but do you have any thoughts to share about Benedict XVI ‘s recent conversation with the crew of the International Space Station?

  2. Legisperitus says:

    That cartoon really makes me sad for the bloody thing. : (

  3. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I feel like that rover in the cartoon. :-(

    But God will rescue me eventually and take me to His home!

  4. EWTN Rocks says:

    I didn’t read the full story but have to ask, related to Opportunity, what’s wrong with continued exploration of Mars? (or did it crash and burn altogether)

  5. Theodore says:

    @ Banjo picking girl.

    I’m with you. The cartoon can be seen as a metaphor for Matthew 24:13, and the necessity of persevering to the end.

  6. Jacob says:

    I really like following the exploits of the Voyagers. That is some real time lag in communications. :)

  7. irishgirl says:

    I heard about this on the BBC World Service which I get overnight on the radio. It used the words, ‘Phone home’ in the story. Made me think of the movie “ET’.
    Poor Spirit… : (
    Hey, that’s a cool patch you got from NASA, Father Z!

  8. benedetta says:

    There is a great imax film about the mars rovers, the process of their design and assembly, their journey to mars and the precision required at various stages just to get them there and set themselves up for work so many interesting aspects. Startling in the technological ability and teamwork by NASA scientists and personnel to get them there, and the fact that the hope and plan was for them to last a few months.

  9. Patti Day says:

    Somebody do something! :(

    Father between this and the Vortex video, I am bummed!

  10. Bryan Boyle says:

    I’m in the middle of reading Gene Krantz’ book “Failure is Not an Option” detailing the early days of our space program as seen from the eyes of someone who was there, and in his descriptions (including, tangentally, the effect his Catholic faith had on how he approached his tasks), you take away a sense of accomplishment, determination, and just plain ‘get-er-done’ focus. Our space program is one of those things, IMHO, when taken in context of a mirror of the intelligence Our Lord gave us, that shows what we can accomplish when we focus…and how what we consider limitations are really just illusions.

    That cartoon is just a little sad…that little guy did more, went further, and expanded our knowledge just a little further, pushing the envelope as it were.

  11. New Sister says:

    Owwwh… that’s heart-rending!

  12. After Rupert Brooke:

    “Should I not signal back, think this of me:
    That there’s some corner of a Martian field
    That is forever NASA. There shall be
    In that rust desert, richer rust concealed.”

  13. AnAmericanMother says:

    Poor little Rover!

    Reminds me of this achingly funny/sad account of a Dog:


    “I can be a good dog! I can be a good dog! A good dog like you wanted!”

  14. PostCatholic says:

    Nice to see Randall Munroe’s XKCD being appreciated by folks so far outside its target audience.

  15. Seraphic Spouse says:

    Okay…. Now I know we’ve all been programmed to love cute little things, like puppies and baby seals, but working up empathy for a collection of computer chips, glass and metal is irrational and… and… I can’t even begin to imagine what St. Thomas Aquinas would have to say. Next we’ll weeping over the Brave Little Toaster Who Could.

  16. Banjo pickin girl says:

    But I love the Brave Little Toaster! How he sacrifices himself by throwing himself into the smashing machine at the junk yard to save his friends. Very moving. Greater love hath no toaster than this…

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