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Mars Rover Spirit's Best Photos

Initially built for a 90-day mission, Spirit spent more than six years exploring Mars. NASA has retired the vehicle, but it leaves behind a wealth of data.

The Spirit Rover

The solar-powered rovers Spirit and Opportunity dazzled scientists and the public with findings of geologic evidence that water once flowed at or near the surface of Mars long ago. 

The two rovers were originally planned for a three-month mission at a cost of $820 million, but managed to eek out six years of exploration. It costs NASA about $20 million annually to keep the pair running.

NASA

Backward Drive

After six years of unprecedented exploration of the Red Planet, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit no longer will be a fully mobile robot. 

NASA has designated the once-roving scientific explorer a stationary science platform after efforts during the past several months to free it from a sand trap have been unsuccessful.

NASA

Spirit Mission

The rover team began commanding extrication drives in November after months of Earthbound testing and analysis to develop a strategy for attempting to drive Spirit out of this soft-soil site, called "Troy." 

The extrication drives have made little progress and the probability of getting Spirit out of the sand trap is low.

NASA

Troy

Aug. 26: This full-circle view from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the terrain surrounding the location called "Troy," where Spirit became embedded in soft soil during the spring of 2009.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

Spirit Mission

Ten months ago, as Spirit was driving south beside the western edge of a low plateau called Home Plate, its wheels broke through a crusty surface and churned into soft sand hidden underneath. 

NASA

Spirit Mission

Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004. They have been exploring for six years, far surpassing their original 90-day mission. 

Opportunity currently is driving toward a large crater called Endeavor and continues to make scientific discoveries. It has driven approximately 12 miles and returned more than 133,000 images. 

NASA

Moving Backwards

July 7: Mike Seibert and Sharon Laubach, engineers on the Mars Exploration Rover team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, check the exact position of a test rover in preparation for a test of straight-backward driving.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Troy Soil

Jun 25: The soft soil exposed when wheels of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit dug into a patch of ground dubbed "Troy" exhibit variations in hue visible in this image, in which the colors have been stretched to emphasize the differences.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University

Spirit Mission

Recent drives have yielded the best results since Spirit became embedded. However, the coming winter mandates a change in strategy. It is mid-autumn at the solar-powered robot's home on Mars. Winter will begin in May. Solar energy is declining and expected to become insufficient to power further driving by mid-February. 

The rover team plans to use those remaining potential drives for improving the rover's tilt. Spirit currently tilts slightly toward the south. The winter sun stays in the northern sky, so decreasing the southward tilt would boost the amount of sunshine on the rover's solar panels. 

NASA

Spirit Mission

This full-circle view from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the terrain surrounding the location called "Troy," where Spirit became embedded in soft soil during the spring of 2009. 

 

NASA

Spirit Mission

This full-circle view from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the terrain surrounding the location called "Troy," where Spirit became embedded in soft soil during the spring of 2009.

NASA

Spirit Mission

This full-circle view from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the terrain surrounding the location called "Troy," where Spirit became embedded in soft soil during the spring of 2009.

NASA

Spirit Mission

This full-circle view from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the terrain surrounding the location called "Troy," where Spirit became embedded in soft soil during the spring of 2009.

NASA

Spirit Stretches

Oct. 11: Spirit recorded this forward view of its arm and surroundings during the rover's 2,052nd Martian day. Bright soil in the left half of the image is loose, fluffy material churned by the rover's left-front wheel.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Bonestall

February 28, 2008: This 180-degree panorama shows the southward vista from the location where Spirit is spending its third Martian winter inside Mars' Gusev Crater. The rover's over-winter location is on the northern edge of a low plateau informally called "Home Plate," which is about 80 meters or 260 feet in diameter.

NASA/JPL/Cornell

Home Plate

February 28, 2008: NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has this view northward from the position at the north edge of the "Home Plate" plateau where the rover will spend its third Martian winter. Husband Hill is on the horizon. The dark area in the middle distance is "El Dorado" sand dune field.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University

Assembly

Engineers for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission complete assembly and testing of the robot geologist. The twin rovers shared floor space in JPL's Spacecraft Assembly Facility during assembly before being shipped to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA

Mars Rover Spirit's Best Photos

Initially built for a 90-day mission, Spirit spent more than six years exploring Mars. NASA has retired the vehicle, but it leaves behind a wealth of data.

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