Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spirit's Mars mission comes to a close

It's been a year since the rover sent a signal. After Tuesday, NASA scientists will stop trying to send it commands. Its twin, Opportunity, continues to work 7 years into what was to be a 3-month mission.

After a year of fruitlessly trying to communicate with Spirit, one of two rovers on the surface of Mars, NASA scientists have finally decided to let it rest in peace. They plan to send their last commands to the rover a little after midnight Wednesday.

Spirit, which landed on Mars in January 2004, has been stuck in Martian sand for two years and has been silent for more than a year, despite regular attempts by NASA scientists to contact it.

Along with its twin rover Opportunity, which landed on the opposite side of the planet, it was sent to explore the Martian landscape for about three months. Yet although they were not built to survive the planet's harsh winters, the two have far outlived their life expectancies and their mission has proven wildly successful, sending back strong evidence, for example, that water once shaped Mars' surface.

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