So Long Spirit! Attempts to Reawaken Mars Rover End

May 25th, 2011
Spirit’s last picture show. One of the last images from the Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover continues on its long-distance trek. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell


It appears that it’s all over for NASA’s spirited Mars rover.

The space agency has announced that it is ending attempts to regain contact with the long-lived Mars Exploration Rover – Spirit — which last communicated on March 22, 2010.

The stuck in the sand Mars rover reached a point where there was inadequate energy to run its survival heaters. That being the case, 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.

Today, a transmission from Earth will be the last in a series of attempts to reawaken the robot.

“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, Lavery added: “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 January 3, 2004 – for a mission designed to last three months.

Opportunity: Still rolling

Meanwhile, Spirit’s twin rover – Opportunity — continues active exploration of the red planet.

Opportunity has driven more than 1.6 miles (about 2.6 kilometers) since leaving “Santa Maria” crater in late March and resuming a long-term trek toward the much larger Endeavour crater.

Opportunity has now driven more than 18 miles (29 kilometers) on Mars.

Both Spirit and Opportunity rovers continued in years of bonus, extended missions.

Indeed, the robotic duo have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life.

By Leonard David

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