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Mars NASA Space Science

Mars Rover Spirit May Never Wake From Deep Sleep 155

Posted by Soulskill
from the borrow-my-alarm-clock,-that'll-do-it dept.
astroengine writes "After repeated calls from NASA to wake up Mars Exploration Rover Spirit from its low-energy hibernation mode, mission control is beginning to realize the ill-fated robot may never wake up again. After getting stuck in a sand trap in Gusev Crater and then switching into hibernation in March, rover operators were hopeful that the beached Spirit might yet be saved. Alas, this is looking more and more unlikely. In a statement, NASA said: 'Based on models of Mars' weather and its effect on available power, mission managers believe that if Spirit responds, it most likely will be in the next few months. However, there is a very distinct possibility Spirit may never respond.'" Related xkcd strip, in case the headline wasn't anthropomorphic enough for you.
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Mars Rover Spirit May Never Wake From Deep Sleep

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  • Re:Awwwww... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dee Ann_1 (1731324) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @12:59PM (#33096434)
    It ~did~ make me cry...
  • Sigh! (Score:4, Informative)

    by camperdave (969942) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @01:09PM (#33096486) Journal
    Spirit isn't stuck in the sand. It's hung up on a rock. The wheels cannot get any traction.
  • Re:Sigh! (Score:5, Informative)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday July 31, 2010 @01:49PM (#33096712) Homepage

    Spirit isn't stuck in the sand. It's hung up on a rock. The wheels cannot get any traction.

    Partly right, partly wrong. She's hung up on a rock because she got stuck in stand - and attempts to drive out only dug her in deeper until she became hung up on a rock.

  • Re:"ill-fated?" (Score:3, Informative)

    by jd (1658) <imipakNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Saturday July 31, 2010 @01:58PM (#33096798) Homepage Journal

    One of the biggest problems with any such mission is the radiation levels. Even space-hardened chips can't survive indefinitely, Mars offers no serious protection and a Rover can't carry a whole lot of shielding. Another problem, peculiar to Mars, is its infamous dust devils - which, if I understand correctly, are about the size of Earthly hurricanes and pack the punch of a tornado crossed with a sandblaster.

  • by PinkyGigglebrain (730753) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @03:04PM (#33097202)
    I was software. But I did ask someone about that when I was at JPL a few months before they arrived on another job.

    In short; to use treads you already have to have wheels. Wheels are more reliable, less total moving parts and are lighter. If a rock or enough sand were to get between the drive wheel and tread it disables the tread. On Earth a tank has the horse power and a crew to deal with it. Ever notice how even modern tanks always carry extra tread links with them?

    Tread probably would have prevented Spirit from getting stuck in the sand trap it's in now, but they would have also ended the mission at a much earlier date. Don't forget that Spirit had been dragging one of its wheels even before it became stuck in the sand.
  • by ScottMaxwell (108831) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @04:46PM (#33097720) Homepage

    We never particularly expected to hear from Spirit before this coming October +/- 1 month, making the suggestion that we're "beginning to realize she might never wake up again" more than a little misleading. According to our best models, the energy levels on Mars are just barely reaching the point where Spirit might wake up for even a few minutes a day, and hearing anything from her at this point would be a great stroke of luck. Have patience. She's there.

    I understand that NASA is trying to manage expectations, but their way of doing it is bad management that needlessly demoralizes the team. My own personal expectation is that we damn well will hear from Spirit, and after a certain recovery period she'll be moving on Mars again.

  • Re:RIP little buddy (Score:5, Informative)

    by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation@@@gmail...com> on Saturday July 31, 2010 @05:54PM (#33098108) Journal

    The two rovers may be the greatest achievement of mankind to date. Lasting this long is beyond heroic. They may be robots but they have both shown a stubborn determination that is impressive for man or machine.

    Speaking of which: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov]

    "On June 28, 2010, Voyager 2 completed 12,000 days of continuous operations since its launch on August 20, 1977. For nearly 33 years, the venerable spacecraft has been returning unprecedented data about the giant outer planets, the properties of the solar wind between and beyond the planets and the interaction of the solar wind with interstellar winds in the heliosheath. Having traveled more than 21 billion kilometers on its winding path through the planets toward interstellar space, the spacecraft is now nearly 14 billion kilometers from the sun. Traveling at the speed of light, a signal from the ground takes about 12.8 hours to reach the spacecraft."

Torque is cheap.

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