Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Five years past its original mission life, the Spirit rover has finally given up the "rove" part of the mission. Stuck in a drift of Martian sand, the rover has resisted all efforts by ground controllers to get it moving again. Since Spirit still has power and the instruments are working, NASA will make us of it as a stationary science platform from now until its instruments wear out or (as happened with the Viking landers) someone decides not to fund it anymore. Meanwhile, the rover Opportunity has put 12 miles on the odometer. Twelve miles may not seem like much, but driving on Mars is a very slow and careful business, not to mention making all those stops for observations. NASA has its ups and downs, but the success of this mission has no downside. It's a brilliant achievement.