Mars Exploration Rovers Update:
Spirit Perseveres Struggles, Opportunity Digs in at Marquette Island — And We Look Back on 2009
By A.J.S. Rayl
December 31, 2009
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Happy New Year
Roving onward into new adventures and a New Earth Year. This artistic portrait comes from the U.K., courtesy rover affciando Stuart Atkinson. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell / background by Stuart Atkinson
The Mars Exploration Rovers quietly wrapped up 2009 this month: Spirit continued to valiantly spin its wheels in an attempt to get out of its embedded location on the west side of Home Plate in Gusev Crater; and Opportunity continued its investigation of Marquette Island, perhaps the oldest Martian rock it s found to date at Meridiani Planum.
Spirit, which has been mired since last April in the sandy soils of Ulysses at a place dubbed Troy, made very little progress in its objective of driving out of its dilemma in December. The prospects of it achieving that goal didn t get better. The rover’s right rear wheel, which had been repeatedly stalling in November, was declared inoperable late this month, a loss that further stacked the odds against the little rover.
“We’d like to drive completely out of Troy, but we’re not sure that’s possible before we have to settle in for winter,” said Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson, of Washington University St. Louis, during an interview earlier this week. “The egregious issue is that we’ve got two drive wheels on the left side that are deeply embedded, middle wheels on both sides that aren’t gripping, and a front and rear wheel on the right that aren’t helping,” he lamented, reluctantly admitting that there is a good chance now that the rover won t ever be able to free itself.