NASA Audio File

NASA’s Spirit Rover Will Stay Put and Stay Active
01.26.10
 
NASA's twin Mars rover Spirit marks 6 years of unprecedented science exploration this month. However, the once roving scientific explorer is now designated a stationary science platform after efforts to free itself from a sand trap over the past several months have been unsuccessful.

The venerable robot’s primary task in the next few weeks will be to position itself to combat the severe Martian winter. As daily sunshine on the Red Planet declines due to the approaching winter, ground operators need to adjust the tilt of Spirit's solar panels to compensate for the decreasing solar energy. Unless the tilt is improved, Spirit’s power will continually decline until May 2010, and the rover could become totally inoperable. If Spirit survives, it will continue conducting significant new science for several months or perhaps years in its new fixed location.

Spirit is in the southern hemisphere of Mars.  Nine months ago, its wheels broke through a crusty surface layer and became trapped in the loose sand hidden underneath.

Spirit, and its twin Opportunity, began missions intended to last for three months. Spirit landed on January 3, 2004, Opportunity on January 24.

For the full audio recording of this press conference, please visit the Mars Exploration Rovers page.

Center Contact:  Guy Webster, 818-354-6278
HQ Contact:  Dwayne Brown, 202-358-1726
For more info: www.nasa.gov/rovers



Doug McCuistion
Director, Mars Exploration Program

CUT 1 (:35) - “Spirit’s stationary priorities right now first will be radio science. This is geophysical science that is very high priority with the science community, the planetary science community. It involves trying to understand what the composition and the size of the planet’s core is, which has a direct correlation to the history of the planet, the change in the climate that occurred on Mars, and why Mars has gone from a warm we place that 3.5, 4 billion years ago resembled earth to the dry barren planet that it is today.
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CUT 2 (:19)- “Spirit’s biggest challenge right now is actually surviving winter . We have to tile the rovers so that the solar panels actually face the sun as the sun gets very low in the sky, we need to collect all the sunlight, all of the photons that we can possibly collect to be able to continue to charge the batteries.”
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CUT 3 (:20)- “With the loss of mobility on Spirit, people are disappointed. These have really become public icons, globally, not just in the United States. Even children, easily, identify with the rovers; they’re cute, and they give you a human’s eye view of the surface of another planet for the first time.”
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CUT 4 (:31) - On the other side of the planet, Spirit’s sister rover opportunity is continuing to explore. It’s finding very exciting things, in its trek from Victoria crater to Endeavour crater, which is a quite long drive. It has found meteorites on the surface that we have investigated, its found sand dunes that we investigated, and driven over, and it’s only recently found what appears a very new crater called Concepcion, which maybe in geological terms brand new, maybe as new a 1,000 years old.
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CUT 5 (:17)- The most important contribution these two Rover have made, there’s two actually, an engineering contribution and a scientific contribution, the engineering contribution is the fact that we now know how to put a mobile system on the surface of another planet and explore at length space.
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CUT 6 (:08) - These rovers have actually proven that Mars had a very warm & wet past, very similar to Earth in its past history.
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