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Spirit's well mired in Martian soil

Since November 17 the Mars Exploration Rover team has been attempting to carefully get Spirit out of the sand trap she’s been stuck in since summer….unfortunately there’s no sign of freedom for the rover yet. The photo above, taken on November 28 with Spirit’s Forward HAZCAM camera, shows one of the major difficulties facing the team: the rover’s right front wheel is nearly buried in the dry, powdery soil it tragically encountered in this location.

Add to that it already had a side wheel out and there also seems to be a pyramid-shaped rock scraping against its underside…it’s not looking good for little Spirit.

Over five years past its original mission timeline, Spirit is otherwise running pretty well despite the aforementioned issues and some intermittent computer memory problems. But if the MER team can’t engineer a way to get it to maneuver out of this situation by February it may cease to be a “rover” and become more of a stationary scientific ambassador to the red planet, investigating its immediate surroundings with its still-functional onboard tools and cameras. Which, all said and done, isn’t a total loss…the region Spirit is in may contain some valuable information regarding Mars’ potentially wetter past.

Read more about Spirit’s (and Opportunity’s) status here.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech