Science

Fellow Robots Trying to Help Stuck Mars Spirit

You know when Woody gets kidnapped and then Buzz Lightyear and Mr Potato and all the toys go to rescue him from the evil toy man? Well, this story has nothing to do with that.


Right now, NASA’s Spirit rover status is:

Spirit: Embedded and Cleaner >>

In other words: Spirit —which was suffering some problems already is stuck in Mars’ Home Plate, with his telescopic nipple antennas trying to get some directions from its masters down at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They believe that the rover is sunk in dirt or its wheels are rolling up in the air, perched on a rock under its undercarriage.

Whatever it is, the good news is that the scientists at the JPL may have a chance to save the day once again, thanks to the help of Spirit’s fellow robots. The Odyssey orbiter is downloading data from Spirit as I write these lines—trying to figure out what the hell is going on down in the surface—while twin-rover Opportunity is practicing moves to take photos of itself, in the hope that Spirit can replicate them and send Earth a picture of whatever is holding him. And down here, the JPL is using a third rover over a terrain similar to the one in which they suppose Spirit is in, practicing maneuvers to free it.

In addition to the problem, one of the wheels is broken, although NASA engineers have been able to get a signal from it and think there may be a possibility to get it working again. They are cautious but optimistic, “taking incremental steps” to free the rover, which has been working way beyond it’s supposed expiry date. Let’s hope they pull out another miracle once again. [NASA via Wired]


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