Back in 2004, NASA sent two remote controlled rovers to Mars … a follow-up (to Sojourner) experiment in being able to remote control exploration vehicles from great distance in addition to continued exploration of the planet. Each of them was supposed to run about 90 days.
Which was almost 7 years ago!
While the little rover Opportunity is still trudging along, its companion Spirit was declared lost a couple of days ago, and its part of the project has reached an end.
Spirit had severe tire damage, though that still allowed it limited travel until March, 2010, when it finally got stuck. The controllers were able to move it a little more to give it optimum alignment for its solar panels, but alas, the signal was lost, as they thought, due to entering power savings mode due to a lack of sunlight. The hope was that when the summer returned, they could try to see if it was revived. Throughout May, there were attempts to restore contact, and on May 24, the team decided that Spirit was beyond their ability to revive, and thus ended one phase of NASA’s most successful missions.
While Opportunity continues to roll around and poke its nose around craters and rocks, it will not be alone for long. Curiosity is ready to go for a November launch, and should be leaving tire tracks in the red dust some time in August!