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Spirit Stuck In Soft Soil On Mars 160

cheros writes "NASA reports that the Spirit Mars lander is presently stuck in soft soil. The lander's wheels are halfway sunk into the soil and they are planning simulation tests to see if they can get it out again. I hope they can get it out of there because it's picking up enough new energy to operate; however, it only has 5 wheels left to get around on — one of the wheels hasn't been working for years. Fingers crossed."
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Spirit Stuck In Soft Soil On Mars

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  • by Forty Two Tenfold ( 1134125 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:29AM (#27920911)

    I visualized a bottle of rectified spirit in Martian soil.

  • 5 out of 6 wheels?!? (Score:5, Informative)

    by DavidChristopher ( 633902 ) * on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:36AM (#27921001)

    SOURCE: Wikipedia
    On sol 779, the right front wheel ceased working after having covered 4.2 mi (7 km) on Mars. Engineers began driving the rover backwards, dragging the dead wheel. Ironically, although this has resulted in changes to driving techniques the dragging effect has also had a positive effect in the fact that the wheel dragging has partially cleared soil away on the surface as the rover travels and allows for imaging areas that would normally be covered in soil. []

    NASA got awesome mileage out of this vehicle... considerably more than was initially expected- over 7700 meters! Hopefully they get it unstuck. According the the NASA website, they've gotten it backed up by a few CM over the last few Sols...

  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:40AM (#27921047)

    The next rover to mars is costing $1.8B to build. Spirit and Opportunity costs around $4M per year to operate. So I think you can fund a lot of years of operations for $1.8B. Hell what does a Delta IV heavy launch cost these days? $50M? $100M?

  • by rackserverdeals ( 1503561 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:14AM (#27922489) Homepage Journal

    How does a rover on Mars cost 4 million per year to operate?

    Long distance charges.

    I don't think the $4million number is accurate anyway. It's likely higher. Last year they were going to cut the budget by $4 million and turn off one of the rovers but then changed their minds. IT looks like the budget for the program is actually $20 million according to this article [].

    Hmm... maybe they didn't change their minds and it's not really stuck.

  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:30AM (#27922713) Homepage

    I'm curious though, in a totally non-judgmental way, about the cost of the program in general; they expected the rovers to last, what, 90 days? So presumably someone budgeted so many resources here on Earth for people, etc., for that length of time. Since the rovers have been doing such a great job of defying expectations, what kind of effect does that have on the budget for the program; is it sufficiently small enough that it just gets lost in the wash?

    Nothing gets lost in the wash in NASA's budget. Not only are there harsh internal reviews, NASA's line items are a popular target for Congressional review. Almost nothing NASA does is low profile, and politically (except for the really big programs) they're neutral - they have no strong constituency in favor, and they're a good place to hide a little pork from public view.
    That being said, if a program runs long NASA can (and does) reprogram funds from elsewhere to keep it running and then adds it into next years budget request. Programs are paid for annually, not in a lump sum up front.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:41PM (#27925561)

    Personnel could easily cost that much. It costs around $250K-300K/yr for a scientist or engineer, by the time you count all the infrastructure, computers, networking, etc. So $4M = about 12-16 people full time. If you have just one person on, 24/7 that's 4 full time equivalents (e.g. 8640/2000 hrs), and in reality, it takes more than one person to do things.

3500 Calories = 1 Food Pound