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  A Martian sunset for Spirit?Mar 29, 2011 10:14 PM PDT | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Potentially bad news for the Spirit rover on Mars, which I wrote about a little while back: according to this new AP article, the rover, which got stuck in a Martian sand trap a few years ago, and had to power down as the onset of the Martian winter cut the power its solar panels could generate to a minimal level, has not woken up with the Martian summer solstice this month as controllers had hoped, which may mean it has a more serious problem. In any case, it's very likely that the little rover's Martian journey will be over after 4.8 miles of roaming around, poor thing. Fortunately, it's twin, the Opportunity rover, is still going strong, with 16.6 miles of Martian rock and soil under its treads so far.
 
Well, to commemorate Spirit, here's a nice panoramic shot it took in its travels on Mars:
 
Image
image by NASA (source (larger))
 
That panorama generated a lot of hubbub, apparently, once some eagle-eyed viewer noticed what could generously be interpreted as a "little green man" in one of the rock formations:
 
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image by NASA (source (inset))
 
Tee-hee! There do seem to be some nifty rock formations on Mars, though, like this one called "Home Plate," whose intricate swept shape you can see see in this animation of two Spirit photos:
 
Image
images by NASA (source and larger)
 
Ooh, also check out the video it took of a Martian dust devil!
 
Spirit and Opportunity have had problems with Martian dust storms blocking their solar panels before--in fact, it is thought that it was brushes with a few friendly dust devils right around the time Spirit took that above-linked video, in March 2005, that cleaned off its panels enough to get it back to a decent power level. And in February and April 2009, winds helped clean dust off the panels and restore power. Judging from those prior incidents, I wonder if it's possible that Spirit's solar panels were buried pretty thoroughly over the last winter, to the point where they can't get any sunlight now in the summer. If that's the cause of the problem, maybe another few dust devils or benevolent wind storms could clear them off.
 
But it could also be another problem (rover-napped by little green men, for instance!). So, it may be a real Martian sunset for Spirit, like this one it once photographed
 
Image
image by NASA (source)
 
--but then again, maybe not! In any case, thanks for the fun, Spirit!
 
 
 
 
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