Thursday, May 26, 2011

Communication With Spirit Rover Ends

NASA Model of the Spirit Rover on Mars.
 In the early hours of May 25, 2011, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover team sent the final command in attempt to reestablish contact with the Spirit rover. The rover hasn't sent a message since March 20, 2010. Since then, over 1,200 commands have been sent and a reply hasn't been heard from the stuck rover.

The rover is likely frozen and dust covered, unable to generate enough power from its solar cells to reawaken. It was hoped that the Martian summer would thaw it out, but it doesn't seem to be the case. It is a sad loss for NASA, the plucky rover has been a scientific workhorse on the Martian surface.

Spirit was originally designed to work for just three months, but ended up roving for over 6 years! That's 25 times what was expected, imagine living 1500 years! It has accomplished so much in its short time, including studying interesting rocks, climbing hills, examining soil, peaking into craters, and traveling 7.7 kilometers since landing.

Spirit's "twin", Opportunity, is still functioning on the opposite side of Mars, working just as hard for just as long as Spirit has. They will be joined by a new rover soon, in a few months, the golfcart-sized "Curiosity" Mars Science Laboratory will be launching. This rover will be able to cover a wider range of the Martian surface and has better instruments than any previous mission.

Spirit will be missed. However, we got more then our money's worth out of the little fellow. It's work will aid in the future study and exploration of Mars. Perhaps, one day, a human will find Spirit among the deserts of Mars, since we hope to be going there soon. We might find out exactly what happened to the rover to cause it to shut down. But until then, we have to be thankful for all the hard work of the rover and scientists involved in the mission.

Spirit on Mars as interpreted by xkcd.


40 comments:

Acrylic Ingenuity said...

Great blog, I am really into astronomy. following

srnajera said...

interesting information dude :O likee

Xenototh said...

Glad to hear they plan on continuing investigation of Mars. It's my hope to see a man and working base there by the time I die. Here's hoping!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Amazing how they only expected it to last 90 days, and the other one is still going strong. I can't wait for the new heavy duty rover to launch.

Malkavian said...

Poor guy, i remember that the winds cleaned its solar panels allowing it to function longer, that last pic looks a bit like Wall-E

Rorschach Redemption said...

Likely frozen? Or likely taken apart by curious aliens? Like you said, at least we got our money's worth.

(27 years later - a message is sent: They're coming for us!)

Dave said...

Pity about the Spirit rover.

phthalo. said...

A sad day that we're giving up hope, I suppose. But good news about Curiosity. Progress continues!

MRanthrope said...

3 months becomes 6 years? Not bad at all little Spirit. good job.

Rob said...

That is a decent life span for the little rover.

Dejch said...

red planet 2 will come out soon? so we can see that at work :)

Kicking Rocks said...

lol the kast picture does look like wall*e

BTN Hip Hop said...

isnt that last image pretty famous?

followed

Zombie said...

Theres a whole not of money wasted nasa...

VenomForMasses said...

Little engine that could and did. I had no idea it lasted this long. What is Curiosity's mission?

Jay said...

These things don't actually have an off button right? So there's still the teeny tiny possibility that some wind storm might blow away the dust on the panels, reawakening the rover, and transforming it into... zombie spirit!

:D

D-503 said...

All good things must come to an end... :)

Hopefully we will have a manned mission to Mars. Now that will be exciting!

Cool blog. Following and supporting. :)


ignoranceistruth.blogspot.com

Astronomy Pirate said...

@ Venom, Curiosity has several mission objectives, including doing an inventory on organic carbon compounds, inventory of the chemical building blocks of life as we know it, identify possible effects of metabolism or biosignatures, investigate the chemical, isotopic, and mineralogical composition of the Martian surface and near-surface geological materials, study the formation of rocks and soils, assess time-scales in Martian atmospheric evolution, determine the current state of water and carbon dioxide cycles, and characterizing radiation sources at the Martian surface.

@ Jay, there isn't an off button per say, but without commands from NASA, the probe won't function. Think of it as kind of an RC car. If the car is on, but the controller isn't then the car won't do anything.

Jay said...

@Astronomy Pirate: Ok then, what if somebody out there had a powerful enough transmitter, could he send out commands to the rover, or is the rover only programmed to receive instructions from NASA? And if so, could this "firewall" be bypassed somehow?

Astronomy Pirate said...

I think it would be possible, its just a matter of figuring out NASA's communication technique. I am sure there is a specific frequency that each probe works on. After that, there might be a specific 'handshake,' a coded signal that lets the probe know that the data is coming from NASA. After that, you would have to figure out how to tell the rover to do things. NASA has entire teams that spend years to build the programing from the ground up, decoding that for a personal use would take immense time and effort. A better idea would be to set up an organization to take over for NASA, having NASA allow your group to attempt to signal the probe. But there's no guarantee you would ever get any response. NASA already gave it about 14 months and no dice.

Major.Mack said...

yeah what a waste of money. if they can design one for 6 years. why bother with a 3 month design?

Moobeat said...

cool

Astronomy Pirate said...

@Major.Mack, I'm not sure you quit understood that? Nothing was designed for 6 years, the initial expectation was only 3 months, but it payed off in the long run.

Admin said...

I'm really digging this part of the internet you've got going on, friend.

las3R said...

Interesting little bit here. Hmm, have you heard about explosion of one of the first stars formed d; Quite interesting as well.

Astronomy Pirate said...

Yeah las3r, that was a Gamma Ray Burst from some 13.14 billion light years away. The estimates are not totally done on an exact distance, but it is exciting. But, this sort of thing seems to be a monthly occurrence at this point. I'm hesitant about dedicating a blog post to it with everything else going on and the fact that I really try to limit myself to one update per day.

The Game Store Guy said...

Gotta give the thing props for a job well done.

JayPower said...

Damn i wish it had lasted longer, alot of money went into that badboy ;D

Dootzkie said...

Damn, APirate... These numbers you pull out make me feel so tiny, yet important in this mechanism we call universe

Speedy Ed said...

aah i wanna see it send back some alien photos :P too far ? ..

The Angry Lurker said...

Spirit, future antique for a space salvage operation.

HOODPHENOMENOM said...

wow only 7.7km, I thought he could travel a bit faster !

Patti D. said...

may it rest in pieces, lol.
I'd hate to life for so long! that would be such a burden!

bruno said...

Maybe one day there will be rovers with nano auto repair (?)

WanderingWriter said...

Why does this make me sad?

Banacek said...

I'll pour out a little liquor for it.

Alexis said...

I can't help but feel a little bit sad that it's died, such a shame but it had a good life!

pixel said...

so how much did that cost?

Atley said...

(Blogger won't let me comment in the normal way, this is a work around, sorry. )
I do like the whole sending rovers into space to explore Mars and all that fun stuff. But when are we going to send a actual HUMAN into space to explore mars? So sad there is no race to mars like there was the moon.

Astronomy Pirate said...

That's pretty strange Atley, then again, I haven't been able to see my followers list for days... Blogger...

As far as Mars, the hope is to get there in the next 2 decades, but we'll see.

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