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Photos: Mars rover Spirit down but not out

Spirit has gained energy from increased solar collection, but it's still stuck in soft Martian soils at a location called Troy.

CNET Reviews staff

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1 of 7 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Home Plate

The Mars rover Spirit is gathering strength from its solar collectors, but for now remains stuck in place while engineers back on Earth attempt to free the wayward robot.

Spirit got stuck in the soft soil about two months ago at a location called Troy on the west side of a rocky outcropping known as Home Plate. The development is unfortunate, but the rover has been anything but a disappointment. Spirit landed on Mars on January 4, 2004, to begin what was intended to be a 90-sol mission of geologic exploration of the Martian surface (a sol is a Martian day).

Spirit has gone on to function on Mars for far longer than scientists had planned, conducting extensive analysis of the Martian soils.

Here, on the 1,871st Martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission (our April 8th, 2009), Spirit looks toward the southeast at a mound on the horizon informally called "Von Braun."

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2 of 7 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Dragging wheels

Since losing the use of its right-front wheel in 2006, Spirit has been forced to move backwards. Looking back after moving 22.7 meters on the 1,861st Martian day (on March 28, 2009), we can see the bright soil churned up by dragging the immobile wheel.
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3 of 7 NASA/JPL/USGS

Underbelly

In this image taken June 2, 2009, we can see how Spirit has become immobile, its wheel stuck in a fine soil. Using the microscopic camera mounted on the soil sampler arm, Spirit took this panoramic image of the situation currently challenging Spirit's operators.
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4 of 7 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University

Composite image of soil

On April 29, 2009, the 1,892nd Martian day, three images were taken through filters centered at wavelengths of 750 nanometers, 530 nanometers, and 430 nanometers and composited into this image.
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5 of 7 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Test rover sinks into prepared soil

In an attempt to understand the conditions under which Spirit has become stuck, NASA team members have created a test setup that simulates the situation the rover faces in a soil patch on Mars called Troy. Colette Lohr (left) and Kim Lichtenberg (center) watch the wheels dig into the soil as Paolo Bellutta pilots the test vehicle in an attempt to engineer a solution to the problem.
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6 of 7 NASA/JPL/USGS

View of the night sky

Accumulated dust has collected on the rover's solar panels, but was blown clear by a rare wind gust. The Spirit is still stuck, but it now has more energy than the panels have collected in years. So the team decided to turn the cameras toward the sky for astronomical observations. This is a view of the night sky on June 22, or Martian sol 1,943. Most of what you see are not stars, just hot pixels. The bright streak on the left is Canopus.
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7 of 7 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Spirit's View Beside 'Home Plate' on Sol 1823

A 180-degree view of the rover's surroundings on February 17, or Martian sol 1,823, near the low plateau called Home Plate.

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