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In Memoriam: Mars Rover Spirit

She had a career that lasted almost 20 times longer than expected, during which time she helped usher in a new era of understanding between our world and an alien planet.

She’s the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit. And today she is officially lost in space.

In a press release issued last night, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory—the rover’s birthplace—announced that scientists will cease trying to communicate with Spirit, which went silent on March 22, 2010.

The rover had become stuck in a sandy pit in April 2009, and efforts to have her wiggle out failed repeatedly.

In January 2010 mission managers decided they’d have Spirit stay put.

She could still do science, investigating the mineral-rich soil she was trapped in, as well as conducting experiments that benefit from a stationary data collector, such as atmospheric studies and radio probes of Mars’s axial spin.

The trick was that Spirit would first have to survive Martian winter.

“Normally we keep [the rover] warm by having it on,” like a car running its engine on a cold day, rover project manager John Callas said at a January 2010 press briefing.

Previously NASA had parked the rover each winter so that her solar panels pointed north, maximizing power collection during the long months of low sunlight.

Given her limited movement in the pit, however, this time Spirit couldn’t get into an ideal position for hibernation.

With wintertime lows around -45 Celsius (-49 Fahrenheit) on Mars, the team was worried that the rover wouldn’t get enough sunlight to keep powered *and* keep warm.

Sadly, it looks like those worries proved true.

Winter’s over now on Mars, and Spirit should have started chattering if she’d made it through the brutal winter.

But NASA’s been trying for ten months to make contact, to no avail, and today they’ll send the very last official transmission.

“We’re now transitioning assets to support the November launch of our next generation Mars rover, Curiosity,” Dave Lavery, NASA’s program executive for solar system exploration, said in the release.

Don’t forget that Spirit’s twin, Opportunity, is still trucking along on the red planet and is even now headed for a new crater to explore.

Plus, it sounds like Team Spirit isn’t completely giving up hope: “While we no longer believe there is a realistic probability of hearing from Spirit, the Deep Space Network may occasionally listen for any faint signals when the schedule permits.”

Spirit, you’ll be missed:

Click the image to read the full comic.

Comments

  1. [...] this image is about as close as you can get to standing on Mars. NASA’s Spirit Mars rover, dark since 2010, shot the newly-released panorama of Gusev Crater between April and October [...]

  2. [...] named Spirit Point, in honor of the rover’s fallen sibling—NASA announced in May that the Mars rover Spirit is presumed dead after repeated attempts at communication went [...]

  3. stardustchannel.com
    santa monica, ca
    June 14, 2011, 9:38 pm

    I’m excited for the next generation of robotic explorers and what the marketing department for NASA will come up with. with the huge increase in robotics used in warfare, we should be able to build robots now that put these first generation bots to shame. I am imagining giant, tank robots and flying robots and virtual reality robots which allow you and I to do the exploring right here from our computers. CAN’T WAIT!!!!! have a story to tell? tell us about it: http://stardustchannel.com maybe we’ll make it.

  4. Daniel
    California
    June 11, 2011, 1:59 am

    You all know that she can never ACTUALLY come back, right? Awwww I wuvv her so muuuch. Even if she wasn’t stuck she still wouldn’t be able to come back. You need a return rocket, and people to be there with a Launch Pad and all that. She will Rest In Peace (thankfully not pieces at least)

  5. davidwayne
    usa
    June 9, 2011, 1:51 am

    spirit is what we are…lets all take a moment to thank all those who set her free !!!

  6. Juno
    USA
    June 8, 2011, 4:34 pm

    Yes please spend more and more money looking for a glorified can opener that has outlived its use. Why we dont we use that money to look right under our own feet. Somewhere around 70% of earth still remains un-unexplored. Ridiculous.

  7. Kane
    Cambodia
    June 7, 2011, 9:41 am

    Good luck Spirit.

  8. Dave Andrews
    June 6, 2011, 11:20 pm

    Fallen silent at last in an alien environment, windblown and frozen – she stands in silent testimony of a species who envisioned the task, of the engineers who made it manifest and of our struggle to explore and learn – to better understand. She speaks eloquently of us.

  9. DJ ROCK
    Cebu, Philippines
    June 3, 2011, 9:19 am

    WALL E can relate on this, too bad. Being alone, stranded. Just seeing the comic makes me feel sad that this precious rover couldn’t go back to our home land. Hope NASA can find a way in order for her to retrieved. Wish them luck

  10. Sonnie
    shiprock new mexico
    June 3, 2011, 9:17 am

    The rover may have other jobs to do than to send pics to civilians. It’s probably checking out ruins of past civilizations that existed on Mars.

  11. ALEX
    LOS ANGELES
    June 2, 2011, 1:18 pm

    Disappointing, hope they find a way to get her back home someday…

  12. chris delferia
    June 2, 2011, 12:14 am

    maybe they should stop sending them to craters and start exploring the buildings and ruins there

  13. Phil
    NBO
    June 1, 2011, 8:20 pm

    Till we meet again rover, good times.

  14. BeamMeUp
    Alexandria, VA
    June 1, 2011, 5:17 pm

    Maybe Marvin the Martian (of Loony Tunes fame) will repair her (LOL). But he might turn the rover into an attack machine.

  15. johnrief
    batac city 2906 philippines
    May 31, 2011, 10:22 pm

    won’t she get the chance to set her wheels here on earth again. Mars, cold, desolate, harsh, does a rover which had developed a ‘link’ to her mission control crews deserve to be left behind on such place. Atleast, if NASA won’t be able to bring her home, try to wiggle her out of that pit, why don’t they use nearby rovers, atleast, keep the “SPIRIT” alive..

  16. Will
    UK
    May 31, 2011, 5:38 am

    I’ll go and get her and bring her home!

  17. alex
    May 30, 2011, 10:16 pm

    ^ lol yea right

  18. gajanan pandilwad
    india maharashtra nanded
    May 30, 2011, 2:48 am

    nasa is the fail company isro is the best

  19. aslam
    pakistan
    May 27, 2011, 7:48 am

    in any case human will depend upon technology but the machine maker cant live without eating and have some asnacksplz

  20. [...] deserve is boundless. Because it was a machine, should have no bearing on that. In Memoriam: Mars Rover Spirit She had a career that lasted almost 20 times longer than expected, during which time she helped [...]

  21. Farooq
    May 26, 2011, 9:06 pm

    Lol @ James

  22. James Morgan
    aurora, on
    May 25, 2011, 11:00 pm

    to be honest, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner