Your Car Isn't Broken, It's Just Become A "Stationary Driving Platform," If You Use NASA's Spin
The silly-euphemism bar is set pretty high these days. But NASA is taking a shot at winning the competition, not because it is easy but because it is hard.
The agency's Mars robotic rover, Spirit, has defied all expectations for how long it would last, of course -- it has been roaming the red planet for six years. That's pretty good when you consider scientists thought they'd get three months of mobility out of it.
Ten months ago, however, Spirit's treads cracked through a crusty bit of dried Mars and got stuck in the sandy soil underneath. (Terrorism has been ruled out.) NASA has been trying since then to get it moving, but today they threw in the towel.
Whatever you do, though, do not call Spirit "stuck." Call it, according to NASA, a "stationary science platform."
"Spirit is not dead; it has just entered another phase of its long life," said NASA's Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program. "We told the world last year that attempts to set the beloved robot free may not be successful. It looks like Spirit's current location on Mars will be its final resting place."
In other words, it's not dead, it's just resting. Or maybe pining for the fjords.
Technicians are going to have to adjust the angle the rover is now resting at, or it won't be able to get enough solar power to communicate through the Martian winter.
Even immobile, though, NASA is confident Spirit will deliver important data.
"There's a class of science we can do only with a stationary vehicle that we had put off during the years of driving," said Steve Squyres, a researcher at Cornell University and principal investigator for Spirit and Opportunity. "Degraded mobility does not mean the mission ends abruptly. Instead, it lets us transition to stationary science."
That's it!! We've been waiting years to "transition to stationary science"!!
Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue. Beautiful plumage.