Mars Rover Enters New Phase of Mission


  • Randy Showstack


The wandering days for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit appear to be over. Spirit, which has been exploring the planet on a science mission since January 2004, is embedded in sandy soil and will remain at its current location at 14.6°S, 175.5°E, at the “Home Plate” plateau within Gusev crater, through the coming Martian winter and for the rest of its days.

Despite NASA's best efforts to extricate the six-wheeled Spirit from the sulfate salt—rich soil for the past 8 months, mission scientists indicated on 26 January that they now believe the rover is stuck for good, aside from minor movements on its four remaining operational wheels and other small adjustments. For the next several weeks, NASA will continue efforts to slightly reposition the robot so that it can better catch the Sun, endure the coming Martian winter in a state of hibernation, and remain at least in infrequent communication with the science team.