The Sad News
I was quite disappointed to read a number of articles in the news last week (ABC News – Mars rover to remain stuck forever, and New Scientist – Trapped Mars rover’s driving days are over) which announced that Spirit (one of the Mars Rovers) was permanently stuck. The idea that these little rovers continued to drive around the Martian making scientific discoveries, well past there expected “use by date”, was very appealing.
The stories that these rovers continued to tell, making discoveries, photographing new vistas, has been one of the most entertaining in current space exploration. The discoveries that these two rovers have made of the geological history of Mars, have been very entertaining, and revealing.
NASA does not have many ongoing projects, which surfaces regularly in the popular press. These rovers have been one of the success stories for NASA. The rovers have continued to work well past their “use by dates”. This has continued to keep the “message of space exploration” in the public arena.
The Future For Spirit
If NASA can get the rover aligned appropriately (to maximise the solar cell sunlight collection), and if it makes it through the Martian winter (without freezing), then it will become a “stationary science station”. What the rover will discover about the Martian Weather, and the composition of the core of Mar, we will wait and see. But, the excitement of finding new rock types, new geological features, and building an understanding of the geological history of will be over.