Tracks on Mars
If scientists cannot free Spirit soon, they will give up and instead try to improve its tilt. Collecting more sunlight would give the solar-powered rover more time and energy with which to attempt to escape the sand trap. And, NASA says, it would at least keep the onboard instruments powered so it can collect data from its current location.
But time is not on Spirit's side. It's trapped in the southern hemisphere of Mars, where it is currently autumn and the amount of sunshine reaching it is steadily declining. Unless the tilt can be improved or winds clear off some of the dust that has collected on the solar panels, Spirit could run out of the power it needs to make more escape attempts, or "extraction activities," as early as January. By May, Spirit might not have enough power to remain in operation.
Here, Spirit turns its camera backward to view its own tracks.
January 15, 2010 11:08 AM PST
Photo by: NASA/JPL
| Caption by: James Martin
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