Tue, Apr 11, 2006
Wheel Failure Prevents Climb To Recharge Batteries
NASA announced Tuesday that after three attempts, the Mars Rover
Spirit -- hampered by a failed wheel -- has failed to reach its
preferred destination to wait out the Martian winter, and will
instead rest on a closer, lower slope.
Engineers had hoped Spirit would be able to climb McCool Hill to
recharge its batteries in the sunlight as winter descends on the
Martian surface. Last week, Spirit was turned towards a closer
slope called Low Ridge. The rover arrived there over the weekend,
said principal scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University, and
it will wait out the winter there instead.
As Aero-News reported last
month, Spirit's wheel stopped working on its trip to
McCool Hill. Scientists tried to compensate by operating the rover
in reverse, but the Associated Press reports the wheel kept
slipping into a sandy trench in the Martian surface as the rover
tried to reach McCool.
While it isn't the ideal location as McCool would have
been, Low Ridge should still provide Spirit with
needed sunlight to recharge its power cells over the winter --
at least enough to then direct the rover to McCool in the
It is unlikely, however, that Spirit's broken wheel will ever
"We are anticipating it will be a five-wheeled rover for the
rest of the mission," Squyres said.
Spirit's twin rover, Opportunity, is located closer to the
Martian equator and will be able function throughout the
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