A poignant entry on xkcd.com, a webcomic by Randall Munroe.
This is based on the recent news that the rover named Spirit will now officially be a “stationary science platform”. After repeated attempts to dislodge it from its current location, wheels hopelessly embedded in soft sand in a locale called “Troy”, the decision was made to cease efforts to free the rover and instead switch to a different sort of exploratory science.
“We told the world last year that attempts to set the beloved robot free may not be successful. It looks like Spirit’s current location on Mars will be its final resting place.”
– Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program
Spirit and her sister rover Opportunity have been exploring the surface of Mars since November 2004. Originally slated for 90-day missions both rovers have far surpassed expectations, still operating to this day. The mountains of data and images the rovers have returned to us over the years have been nothing short of groundbreaking. And, although immobile, Spirit’s scientific equipment is still very much in working order so it is still has enough work cut out for it to keep it busy for a long time.
In fact, as a bit of a silver lining to the dark cloud of Spirit’s entrapment, the region the rover is currently in may have once been covered with water based on the discovery of sulfates in the soil. This would most likely never have been realized had Spirit’s wheels not broken through the surface crust.
“There’s a class of science we can do only with a stationary vehicle that we had put off during the years of driving. Degraded mobility does not mean the mission ends abruptly. Instead, it lets us transition to stationary science.”
– Steve Squyres, principal investigator for Spirit and Opportunity.
The reward for work well done is, after all, more work. 🙂
Images: http://www.xkcd.com (thanks Laurie) and NASA/JPL-Caltech