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Spirit Rover Lives – How A Robot Can Survive The Odds

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Spirit Rover Lives – How A Robot Can Survive The Odds

Editor’s note – Unfortunately Spirit Rover is dead, as of 2011. However, we will leave this article in place as a celebration of how long Spirit Rover lasted while exploring the harsh landscape of Mars, prior to the Mars Curiosity Rover landing.

The phrase, “Spirit Rover Lives,” is quickly becoming the cheer of all Mars exploration enthusiasts across the world, as the Mars rover defies all expectations and continues to live on over twenty times longer than planners ever expected it to.

The Spirit Rover Lives On

The NASA land rover known as the Mars “Spirit” rover, landed on Mars on January 4, 2004. It was an exciting day for the team at NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover, as the first of the two rovers (the other was the “Opportunity” rover) to touch down on Martian soil. This amazing piece of machinery spent four years exploring the surface of this distant planet, surviving dust storms and an extremely harsh climate and atmosphere.

The amazing robot spent the years since then exploring the geography, taking samples, and of course capturing images of the landscape. Part of its daily schedule included a “nap” that allowed time for NASA to transmit data from the rover’s memory banks and so that the rover could conserve its power. The rover recharges it’s power through solar panels. Unfortunately, dust storms have covered many of the panels with a layer of dust thick enough to reduce their efficiency, and the rover has been suffering from reduced power levels since the middle of 2007.




The following impressive photo is only a very small representation of the stunning imagery the Spirit Rover has been sending to earth.

spirit rover

In it’s old age, as Spirit Rover lives on, it began to suffer from “amnesia” problems, in that when it would fall asleep, it would lose data stored in its flash memory. When it came out of its nap, NASA realized that only the RAM (random-access memory) could be transmitted and that the flash memory was lost. Because of these problems, the NASA team changed the daily routine to, according to an April 24th, 2009 press release, “aid the diagnostic work if the rover experiences another failure to record data into flash memory.”

spirit rover

The NASA team is taking full advantage of the Rover’s spirit to survive and continue exploring. On April 11, 12 and 18, Spirit rover failed to wake up from its “nap,” but each time it eventually came back online, and the cheer “Spirit Rover Lives!” travels through the airwaves. Engineers continue troubleshooting and investigating, but everyone realizes that this amazing robot is reaching the end of it’s life. The team expects the “amnesia events” to continue – but still, the Spirit rover continues to drive on in increments of 5 or 6 feet at a time.

From the April 2009 mission update:

Mission managers maintain hope that the Spirit of this little NASA robot will live on.

“Spirit has completed 11 consecutive sols of operation without any faults or resets. Anomalous behavior from the period after Sol 1872 (April 9, 2009) has not recurred. There is still no explanation for those anomalies, and the investigation is continuing.”

As the world watches, Spirit rover continues to explore and map the alien landscape – in a story and with technology that easily keeps science fiction enthusiasts enthralled. Everyone, including the mission team as well, is curious to see how long Spirit rover lives.

Originally published on TopSecretWriters.com

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