Seven years ago, January 3, 2004, the the Mars Exploration Rover (MER-A) Spirit safely landed at the crater Gusev on the planet Mars to the cheers of planetary scientists after a 9-month trek from Earth. Seven years later hope for the continued functionality of the rover as a weather station is turning dim.
In April 2009, Spirit got stuck in in a Martian sand dune from which it could not break free after repeated attempts over months of effort and ending its 5-mile trek on the surface. On the 6th year of its adventure on Mars, January 2010, NASA re-classified the mobile robot mission to that of a stationary research platform.
Spirit, however fell silent on March 22, 2010. NASA doesn’t know if Spirit is dead or alive, but it’s diligently listening for any single while operations continue with its healthy twin MER-B Opportunity on the other side of the Red Planet now near one of the largest Mars crater to have been visited by either rover over the past seven years.
The MEVs are designed to try to wake up when its battery gets enough charge. Scientists are disappointed with Spirit’s silence, but are holding out hope it will spring back to life to provide more data from Mars in 2011.
Meanwhile, NASA is completing preparation for a new Mars Science Laboratory called Curiosity to launch for Mars in the fall of 2011 and landing to trek about the surface in August 2012.