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Fingers crossed for Spirit…

I was going to write a long update on the problems facing the Mars Exploration Rover “Spirit”, but I’ve decided not to bother – there’s absolutely no point when AJS Rayl, one of the best space journalists out there, who writes for The Planetary Society, has written a magnificently detailed and comprehensive update on the status of BOTH rovers. You can read it by clicking here:

http://www.planetary.org/news/2010/1231_Mars_Exploration_Rovers_Update_Spirit.html

In that update you’ll read all about how poor Spirit is well and truly stuck in that sandtrap just beneath Homeplate. Things are certainly looking very serious for poor Spirit, with wheels and gears failing, motherboards straining and a potentially rover-killing winter approaching fast. Until recently I was quite optimistic about the prospects for Spirit getting free, things seemed to be going slowly but surely… but now, having seen animations on UMSF of the rover actually sinking further into the dust, and having read a couple of downbeat updates and status reporst from NASA, I’m genuinely starting to think that, six years after landing on Mars, the rover’s roving days are over, and soon the brave attempts to “Free Spirit” will be stopped and she’ll be declared a stationary platform and re-dedicated to spending the remainder of her days studying Mars’ weather, sky and the landscape around her. If that happens it’ll be sad, but there’ll be absolutely nothing anyone will be able to do, and far better to have her working in some way than just die and be reduced to a lifeless hulk on the surface. If Spirit is fated to end her days in the exact spot where she is now we’ll still be able to enjoy lots more beautiful pictures and useful science, for a while at least.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Mars, Opportunity is still studying “Marquette Island”, that big hunka chunka rock she found a good few weeks ago. If you’re wondering why the MER team have dedicated so much time to studying Marquette – it’s just a rock after all, isn’t it? – then read AJS Rayl’s update and you’ll see why.

So… here we are… 6 years after Spirit landed. 6 YEARS! The rovers were – as most people on Earth now know – meant to last “90 days”. Six years later, they’re still working, having survived every dust storm, technical failure and natural obstacle and challenge thrown at them by Mars. That’s a great tribute to the expertise and dedication of the MER team.

For a space enthusiast and Mars nut like myself, it’s hard to remember what life was like before the MERs arrived on Mars, and it’s very hard to imagine what life will be like after they’ve gone. One day we’ll have to face up to that absence, I know.

But today is not that day.

Today’s a day to celebrate, and what better way to celebrate than with a cake?

(Cake made by my Twitter friend, Joi_the-artist!)

🙂

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