back to article Bogged-down Mars rover may be doomed to chilly death

NASA says that its "scrappy" Mars rover, Spirit - which has spent six years prowling the ochre wilderness of the red planet - may finally be stuffed. Bogged in a sand trap, the machine is unable to align its solar panels correctly for the coming Martian winter, meaning that it will probably expire from the cold. According to a …


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  1. Nux Vomica

    Anyone else see a cheesy movie in this?

    I can see Spielberg salivating already, the heroic tale of Opportunity circumnavigating the planet to rescue Spirit, ala "Silent Running"?

    No...? OK, Just me then..........

  2. Tom Paine


    Strange timing....

    The project team had recently announced that they were about to try something that they'd previously said would be a last desperate, nothing-to-lose technique - using the robot arm to try to move dust and sand out of the way of the wheels. (The main problem with this, apart from it being very unlikely to help, is that it might well b0rk the scientific instruments on the end of the arm, eg. the Mossbauer spectrometer. However they then unexpectedly tried a new driving technique: reversing, which is to say moving further along in the direction it was going when it first got stuck. (Spirit's been mostly driving backwards for a couple of years now, since the front-right wheel popped. It's much easier to drag than push a locked-up wheel, of course.) To general astonishment in the community, progress has been pretty dramatic -several cm of movement, which is more than has been seen since last May. She's definitely not out of the woods yet - in fact hasn't quite reached the end of the track she'd followed when driving into the hidden crater in the first place - but it was looking promising at least.

    Hurrrm well, have to wait til I get home and jump on the forum to find out WTF gives.

  3. Olafthemighty

    "capo di tutti boffini"

    Traditional LP genius!

  4. MrJP


    ...must be the inner geek in me but every time I read on the progress (or lack thereof) of poor little Spirit I get an overwhelming sense of empathy and visions of this lopsided Wall-E take off, wheezing and spluttering in the dusty sand whilst it slowly and helplessly sinks...oh I go again :'(

    1. MacroRodent

      Inspiration for Wall-E?

      "of poor little Spirit I get an overwhelming sense of empathy and visions of this lopsided Wall-E take off,"

      Doesn't Spirit pre-date Wall-E by several years? I wonder if the Wall-E character was actually inspired in part by these hardy real-life explorer robots, that have kept going well past their "best-before" dates.

      I have tremendeous respect for the people who designed and operated them. In this era of throw-away technology and cutting corners in the name of profits, I find it actually inspirational that some people have had the skill and care to create technology that operates better than required under very harsh conditions.

  5. Anonymous John
    Dead Vulture



  6. vincent himpe

    @anonymous john

    RIP .. Rest in Pieces ?

  7. Chris iverson

    No need to be sad people

    By no means do I wish the end of our rugged metallic robo-boffinry on Mars. I more wish to thank them for their contribution to space exploration at large. They have provided much more valuable data then they were intended to and lasted far longer than their design life. So i'll drink to that

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So Spirit will become....

    The Spirit of Mars Christmases Past???

    (Where else but the Reg could you get a Dickensian literary reference with your Scitech news?)

    (Ok, it wasn't that good a reference)

  9. Steve Roper

    The Martians are coming...

    "It's lookin' good... it's goin' good... we're gettin' great pictures here at NASA Control Pasadena! The landing craft touched down on mars 28 kilometres from the aim point. We're lookin' at a remarkable landscape, littered with different kinds of rocks... red... purple..."


    "Hey wait a minute, now I'm losing one of the craft. Hey Houston, you getting this?"


    WEEEEEooooooooo, WEEEEoooooooo, WEEEEEooooooo....

    (+1 internets to anyone old enough to pick the reference!)

    1. Alan Newbury

      Re: The Martians are coming

      Damn you - I have this strange ululation running through my head now.

      Time to break out the vinyl...

    2. Rattus Rattus

      The final track

      on Jeff Wayne's musical version of War of the Worlds really isn't obscure enough to be worth a whole internet, maybe half of one?

      I always have a laugh at that track, listening to the Seppo voice trying (and failing) to pronounce "Canberra."

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Probably not the first...

      Jeff Wayne's musical version of The War of the Worlds - last scene.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Old enough?

      Old enough to have taken my son to the 30th anniversary tour last year, touring Europe again this autumn, worth every penny.

    5. Stephen May
      Thumb Up

      War of the worlds of course..

      Was listening to it in the office this morning after Forever Autumn was played on the radio on the way in.

      1. Steve Roper

        I should have known

        that the majority of El Reg readers should know it. But you'd be amazed at how many people I've met both IRL and online who have never heard OF, let alone HEARD, Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds...

  10. Mr Mark V Thomas

    Re: The Martians are Coming

    Thanks for the +1 internet, Steve, as I did get the reference...

    it's the very last track on Jeff Wayne's War of The Worlds album, as I recall, & the voice on said track is Jeff Wayne's father...

    "No one would have believed in the first years of the 21st Century, that the original double album could be digitally reconstructed from it's many fragments of the original analogue mutitrack tapes...

    No one even dreamed of attempting to re-sync 48 tracks without the long defunct Maglink timecode...

    But slowly, surely & with immeasurable wizardry, Gaeten Schurrer drew his plans, & against all odds, suceeded..." - Jeff Wayne's War of The Worlds 27th Anniversary Collectors Edition

  11. Winkypop Silver badge

    Poor little bugger

    May it slowly ablate in peace!

  12. Methusalah
    Thumb Up

    Nice one Steve!

    OK I'll bite.

    Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds (IMHO one of the best albums of the last half century)

    Does this mean Google owe me a share of their profits?

  13. Martin 49

    Simples !

    Should have installed a Sri-mech (a la Robot Wars).

    A quick kick of the flipper - sorted.

  14. phil 21

    I love the fact that

    it has exceeded it's mission time by over -five years- :)

    fingers crossed that it can dig itself out, the pics these rovers send back are staggering.

  15. Mike Bell

    Why can't they do this with Noel Edmonds?

    Simple question, really.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    For real?

    It's a funny thing that with photovoltaic cells and pissy cold winters, that the boof heads at NASA couldn't get their shit together enough to make the solar cells TILT at the sun; nor to include a "windshield wiper" to clear the dust off the panel.

    Like a "track the sun" set up would be nice, but a more basic one that simply tilts at the average direction of the midday sun would still be a HUGE improvement over a FLAT horizontal panel that gets buried under the dust....


  17. Daisy O'Byrne

    Spirit Rover

    I hope one of your talented subscribers composes a poem to eulogize the poor rover.

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