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NASA Engineers Try to Free Mars Rover From Sand Dune (moved from ATSNN)

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posted on May, 14 2005 @ 01:03 PM
Stuck in the sand sounds like an Arizona off-road adventure, but this loss of mobility came this week on Mars, according to Peter Smith, a University of Arizona senior researcher working on NASA's dual rover mission there. Opportunity, one of the golf-cart size robotic vehicles that landed on Mars nearly a year and a half ago, is stuck in the sand and NASA Engineers are trying to figure out how get it unstuck.

The Mars rover Opportunity is facing its biggest challenge since it landed on the Red Planet last year: how to get out of a sand dune where it's been stuck for two weeks.

Engineers spent this week simulating the Martian terrain at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena to try to figure out why the robot got bogged down and how to get it moving again. Engineers performed several tests driving a dummy rover over a man-made sand dune.

Scientists sent the first new driving directions to Opportunity on Wednesday, commanding it to start inching down from the dune in a series of "mini-drives."

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

This is not the first time a rover has been stuck and might not be its last. In June 2004, Spirit's right front wheel became erratic and Spirit overcame that problem by driving in reverse, which allowed it to drag the faulty wheel while driving itself with the five other wheels on the Rover.

Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, have been exploring opposite sides of Mars since landing in January 2004 and have uncovered geologic evidence of past water activity on the planet. Both rovers outlasted their primary, three-month missions long ago.

This scientific wonder has traveled roughly 2.45 miles so far on the Mars surface and taken tens of thousands of pictures, it would be sad if the engineers cannot solve this problem.

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[edit on 5/14/2005 by shots]


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