It’s official – the Mars Rover, Spirit, is stuck in the mud. Well…sand, but that’s not an amusing cliché. Trapped in the sands of the Martian desert, Spirit has been unable to move for ten months, and has now been declared a “stationary research platform”. The news doesn’t seem to have reached the official NASA Mars Exploration Rover site, but you can find the announcement on their news page.
It seems unlikely we’ll hear much more about Spirit now until it’s covered with enough dust that it cannot recharge via solar power and goes silent forever – or at least until there’s a stiff breeze (as my beloved pointed out, this is not unlike what happens to Wall-E). But it’s striking how the language NASA uses is very…well, very Yes Minister. Spirit isn’t “dead” or “stuck”, it’s “no longer a fully mobile robot”; it’s not “retired”, it’s “entered a new phase”. I kept expecting to hear that it was “very happy with its brave decision” and that we can expect more reports from Spirit “in the fullness of time”. Or even: “Spirit’s close colleague, Opportunity, has not been available for comment.”
But for the definitive last word on the end of Spirit’s active life, I must pass you on to that ever excellent web comic XKCD; their piece on the subject is simply titled “Spirit“.