Spirit Rover

Spirit (and its twin, Opportunity) are six-wheeled, solar-powered robots standing 1.5 meters (4.9 ft) high, 2.3 meters (7.5 ft) wide and 1.6 meters (5.2 ft) long and weighing 180 kilograms (400 lb). Six wheels on a rocker-bogie system enable mobility over rough terrain. Each wheel has its own motor. The vehicle is steered at front and rear and is designed to operate safely at tilts of up to 30 degrees. Maximum speed is 5 centimetres per second (2.0 in/s);[18] 0.18 kilometers per hour (0.11 mph), although average speed is about 1 centimetre per second (0.39 in/s). Both Spirit and Opportunity have pieces of the fallen World Trade Center's metal on them that were "turned into shields to protect cables on the drilling mechanisms".

Solar arrays generate about 140 watts for up to four hours per Martian day (sol) while rechargeable lithium ion batteries store energy for use at night. Spirit's onboard computer uses a 20 MHz RAD6000 CPU with 128 MB of DRAM, 3 MB of EEPROM, and 256 MB of flash memory. The rover's operating temperature ranges from −40 to +40 °C (−40 to 104 °F) and radioisotope heater units provide a base level of heating, assisted by electrical heaters when necessary. A gold film and a layer of silica aerogel provide insulation.

The rover completed its planned 90-sol mission. Aided by cleaning events that resulted in more energy from its solar panels, Spirit went on to function effectively over twenty times longer than NASA planners expected. Spirit also logged 7.73 km (4.8 mi) of driving instead of the planned 600 m (0.4 mi), allowing more extensive geological analysis of Martian rocks and planetary surface features. Initial scientific results from the first phase of the mission (the 90-sol prime mission) were published in a special issue of the journal Science.

On May 1, 2009 (5 years, 3 months, 27 Earth days after landing; 21.6 times the planned mission duration), Spirit became stuck in soft soil. This was not the first of the mission's "embedding events" and for the following eight months NASA carefully analyzed the situation, running Earth-based theoretical and practical simulations, and finally programming the rover to make extrication drives in an attempt to free itself. These efforts continued until January 26, 2010 when NASA officials announced that the rover was likely irrecoverably obstructed by its location in soft soil, though it continued to perform scientific research from its current location.


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