Stranger Fruit

Spirit and Opportunity Still Going …

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the landing of NASA’s Spirit on Mars. Its sibling, Opportunity, will celebrate five years on January 24th. Expected to last 90 days on the hostile Mars surface, as this article reminds us, they are still going strong and have been awoken after their winter hibernation.

Martian winds occasionally have cleared Spirit and Opportunity of suffocating dust, which was expected to coat their solar panels eventually and make them useless.

"So, that’s part of the reason: darn good engineering and a little bit of luck," [Phil] Christensen said.

Phil Christensen is a colleague here at ASU who is currently operating instruments on four probes roving or orbiting the planet. Wander on over to his website to find out more about the THEMIS, TES and MINI-TES instruments that are providing data on the Martian environment.


  1. #1 Bickle
    January 3, 2009

    Sounds like it’s time for a sequel to “The Little Engine that Could” 🙂

  2. #2 blf
    January 3, 2009

    In addition to the lucky winds and good engineering, the repairs during the winter shutdowns by crews of little green martians also help.

  3. #3 Brian X
    January 4, 2009

    You know, it’s a funny thing. I was discussing today with someone the robot I bought my nephew as a Christmas present — it’s a Tribotz from iBotz in the UK, and it’s a pretty awesome demonstration of what’s possible with some basic sensors and only the tiniest smattering of digital logic. The funny thing is that I remember what the hobby robotics market was like when I was in college in 1998, a few years before my nephew was born — it was nonexistent. The college robotics lab was centered around a somewhat outdated Hero 2000 and Lego Mindstorms, the epitome of hobbyist robotics, was just about to be introduced. And then… Pathfinder and Sojourner came along and made robotics cool again, along with causing everyone to rethink what a robot had to be to be interesting.

    10+ years later, robotics is thriving as both a hobby and an educational modality. Jameco, Ramsey, and several other electronics companies carry robots along with their other kits, domestic robots like the Roomba are commonplace, and WowWee’s series of robots have become hugely popular toy lines. And I think we have NASA and their “smaller, cheaper, faster” mantra to thank for it, at least in part.

    To two awesome little rovers; they’re doing science, and they’re still alive.

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