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29 January 2010

xkcd Spirit

xkcd (a comic which you should all be reading if you aren’t already) has a nice comic up today about Spirit. Click the image to see the whole thing.


27 January 2010

So we'll go no more a roving…

With yesterday’s news of Spirit’s defeat at the hands of the sulfury sands of Mars, I was reminded of this poem. It is by Lord Byron, but I first encountered it in one of my favorite short stories in this blog’s namesake, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. The story is entitled “And the Moon be Still as Bright”, and the poem is “So we’ll go no more a-roving”: So, we’ll …


Spirit is no longer a Rover

In a news conference yesterday, NASA announced that Spirit’s driving days are likely over, but by virtue of remaining stationary, new science possibilities are opened up. Here’s the text from the press release: After six years of unprecedented exploration of the Red Planet, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit no longer will be a fully mobile robot. NASA has designated the once-roving scientific explorer a stationary science platform after efforts during …


14 January 2010

Time is Running out for Spirit Rover

JPL just released this update on Spirit’s status and it doesn’t look good: The list of remaining maneuvers being considered for extricating Spirit is becoming shorter. Results are being analyzed Wednesday, Jan. 13, from a drive on Sol 2143 (Jan. 12, 2010) using intentionally very slow rotation of the wheels. Earlier drives in the past two weeks using wheel wiggles and slow wheel rotation produced only negligible progress toward extricating …


17 November 2009

Be a Martian!

Fact #1: As a Mars scientist, I am incredibly spoiled. There are so many missions to Mars right now sending back so much data, that even if they all went silent tomorrow, it would be decades before we managed to look at all the data and figure out what it’s telling us. Fact #2: There are lots of people out there (I’m looking at you, loyal readers!) who would love …


15 November 2009

Crescent Earth, Water on the Moon, and Free Spirit!

Just a quick post to update you on the latest space news and remind you to keep voting for my article about how MSL is like James Bond. First of all, the Rosetta spacecraft, on its way to a rendezvous with a comet in 2014, swung by Earth the other day, and took some beautiful pictures: Second, NASA held a press conference on friday announcing that the LCROSS mission to …


12 May 2009

Ups And Downs for Spirit Rover

Recently, Spirit has had some very good news and some very bad news. The good news is that we just had a huge cleaning event, with high winds blowing the solar panels clean so that we are getting power levels that we haven’t seen in years! The bad news is that this occurred as Spirit got stuck in deep, soft sand. Last week we were commanding drives of tens of …


15 April 2009

Watching out for Dust Storms

NASA just sent out this press release discussing the various ways that we watch out for dust storms that might be dangerous to the rovers. I have actually used data from the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) that they mention in the release, but I used it for the exact opposite task! I wrote programs that search through the images taken by that camera (there are a lot of them, it …


11 April 2009

Rover Huggers

Stuart Atkinson just posted a very nice short story over at his blog Cumbrian Sky that you should all go and read. Here’s a teaser: “Hurry up!” Catriona said loudly into her helmet mike. She didn’t bother to turn round towards her brother as she spoke. She didn’t need to; apart from herself and her mother, whose hand she was clutching tightly, he was the only other person for miles …


11 November 2008

Spirit Hit by Dust Storm

Just when things were looking up for Spirit and we had begun driving, over the weekend we got news from the MARCI team that there was a dust storm headed toward Gusev crater. Sure enough, Spirit is being hit hard and power levels are at an all-time low. Here’s the NASA press release. But after five years the rover team knows what it’s doing. There was an emergency set of …


31 August 2008

Mars Rovers Twitter!

Following the lead of their younger, hipper cousin Phoenix, the Rovers now have their own Twitter page. Check it often to get the latest rover news!


29 April 2008

Lol Rovr

I’m on downlink duty for Spirit this week, and here’s an update on the winter power situation, inspired by the site everyone loves to hate (or hates to love?):


27 March 2008

Spirit's science at Home Plate: SAFE!

With the MER budget scare having blown over, now is a perfect time to reflect on the science at Home Plate – and beyond – that Spirit has yet in store.  Rather than vent frustrations about the near-disaster of a 40% funding slash, I’d rather be reminded that we’re lucky – astoundingly lucky – to be operating spacecraft on the surface of another planet.  And for Spirit, I think the …