Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mars rover Spirit could wriggle free of its sandy catch

A NASA scientist has said that the Mars rover Spirit should be able to wriggle free of its sandy trap on Mars, and not befall a stationary lander mission.

In April 2009, Spirit’s wheels broke through a thin surface crust and got hindered in the loose sand below.

After months of trying disastrously to free the rover, NASA declared on January 26 that Spirit would hereafter be a stationary lander mission rather than a rover.

However, according to a report in New Scientist, rover scientist Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, said that the announcement was “a little bit premature”.

In nine obliges between January 15 and February 8, mission members coaxed the rover into driving backwards by 34 centimetres – “pretty good for a lander”, Arvidson said.

That distant surpasses the mere millimetres of motion Spirit had managed in previous efforts.

The technique concerned swiveling the rover wheels from side to side, which cleared away some of the loose soil beneath the wheels and compacted what remained.

By alternating wheel swiveling with short drives, the rover was able to make slow and steady development.

We only blocked because we ran out of sunlight as winter approached, Arvidson said.

Spirit is hibernating now, with too slight power to continue driving.

After we come out from hibernation in September or October, my thought is that a couple weeks and we’ll back out (of the trap), he said.

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