After a some rocky times with the red planet in the late 1990’s, NASA finally succeeded with the Mars Rover. This cute little fellow may be near the end of its life, but it has survived years past its original 90-day mission. Popsci reports:
A stuck robotic rover may have overtaken NASA’s Viking probe as the longest-surviving mission on Mars — so long as it’s still alive. But its robotic twin Opportunity could also still grab the record next month if the Spirit rover has slipped into its final winter slumber.
The golf-cart-sized Mars Exploration Rovers have long since outlived their 90-day missions; they both celebrated their six-year anniversaries on the red planet in January. Rather than sigh over the voided warranties, NASA’s rover handlers have celebrated their hardware’s persistence on a rugged and alien world.
Time and tough conditions finally caught up to the rover twins more recently. Spirit had already lost control over one of its six wheels years ago, before becoming stuck in a Martian sand trap back in April 2009. It lost function in another wheel as NASA struggled to free the robotic explorer.
Rover handlers finally conceded defeat in January 2010, after ten months of trying to free Spirit. But they still took the optimistic approach by christening Spirit as an immobile science station. There was still a chance for Spirit to add to the thousands of images it had snapped on Mars, not to mention its scientific achievement of revealing how the planet’s rocks and soil showed signs of extensive water exposure.
[Read more at PopSci]