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Mars Rovers

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NASA's Mars rover "Spirit" passed its six-year anniversary January 3rd. But the upcoming Mars winter may spell the end for the all-terrain vehicle. Last year, Spirit's wheels broke through a crusty Mars surface layer, and became trapped in the loose sand hidden underneath. Here, a NASA scale model mock-up is seen trying to maneuver out of the predicament. Latest attempts to recover the real rover have resulted in it sinking deeper in the Martian soil. Spirit's twin rover, Opportunity, landed on the opposite side of Mars three weeks after Spirit, and is still able to rove across the planet's surface. The two rovers combined have traveled over 16 miles, sending back photos and lots of data about the planet. As daily sunshine on the Red planet's southern hemisphere declines with the approaching winter, NASA ground operators are trying to adjust the tilt of Spirit's solar panels, to compensate for the decrease in solar energy. Right now the solar panels are pointed slightly south. It's in its approaching winter, and for the best sunlight it should be pointed in other direction, toward the north where the sun will be above the horizon. Unless the tilt is improved, and an unexpected gust of Martian wind can clean off dust accumulation on its solar panels, Spirit's power will continually decline until May. And the rover could become totally inoperable. But NASA scientists say the rover far outlasted their expected life of just 90 days. Something that lasts almost six years - when it is only supposed to last 90 days... You gotta be joyful that that thing been so tremendously successful. In someways, the idea that it may be stuck in one place is sad - in that it can't rove anymore. But on the other hand, it's still alive. There are some science that it can do that it couldn't do as a rover. And so that's in fact something to look forward to, and is exciting. Meyer says by being stationary Spirit can make extremely fine measurements using its radio. And it can monitor minor variations in the spin of Mars. He says by doing that for an extended time, scientists will be able to tell if Mars has a liquid center or a solid center.

Video Details

Duration: 2 minutes and 32 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: National Geographic
Director: National Geographic
Views: 115
Posted by: greenbo on Apr 11, 2010

The Mars Rovers have worked longer than expected

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