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27 January 2010

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 …

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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 …

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16 December 2009

AGU 2009 – Day 1

For those not familiar with the conference, the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union is a terrifyingly, overwhelmingly large conference. Each year, something like 16,000 geoscientists descend on San Francisco to share their work. It is also one of the major planetary science conferences, so a lot of new results are first presented here. This year, the first talks that I checked out on Monday were about radar observations …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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16 July 2008

Spirit's Bonestell Panorama

Hey folks, as you may know, the Spirit rover has been sitting at the north rim of home plate all Martian winter, struggling to stay alive through the short winter days and long nights. She’s been doing some science though: every day or so, we’ve been taking a few more pictures that will eventually go into a gigantic panorama. After more than 120 sols, we recently hit the halfway point …

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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 …

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