Thursday, May 26, 2011

Spirit, signing off

Since 2004 there have been a couple of little robots that could exploring the surface of Mars. Robots built by people on Earth, roaming another planet (I like that I can write that and not have it be science fiction), producing images like this (courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU, click to enlarge):
XKCD poignantly had this to say about the Mars Rover 'Spirit' in January 2010 when contact with it was lost. Further attempts to contact it have been unsuccessful (as described here by Stuff, and here by Bad Astronomy), and 6 years beyond it's original 90 day mission it has been officially declared dead. It is sitting there right now in martian sand, lifeless and inert, having exceeded every expectation. If there is a real-life WALL-E equivalent the rovers are probably it, and elsewhere on Mars Spirit's twin 'Opportunity' is still going strong.

Admittedly it is anthropomorphising a completely inanimate object, but Spirit's passing should be noted nonetheless. Hopefully sometime in the future someone might get the chance to go and get it.

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