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Moon and Mars

August 24, 2011

[SFX: Spirit rover sounds]

That's the sound of the Spirit rover, a Mars explorer that NASA declared dead a few months back. Engineers converted data from the instruments that recorded the rover's motion into sound, and sped it up.

Spirit succumbed to the bitter cold of winter after it got stuck in the Martian sands. When winter arrived in early 2010, it wasn't in the right position for its solar panels to receive energy from the Sun, so it couldn't produce enough power to keep its instruments warm. After winter ended, engineers spent months trying to revive it, but they finally gave up in late May.

Spirit arrived at Mars in January of 2004. Its mission was to spend three months studying the wide crater in which it landed. Instead, it lasted for six years. It found evidence that water flowed on Mars in the distant past. It measured the composition of the rocks and sand, and climbed a set of small hills. In all, it covered almost five miles before it got stuck.

Spirit's twin, Opportunity, continues to rove across the Martian landscape. It is headed for another crater, as the adventure of the Mars rovers continues.

Look for Mars huddled quite close to the crescent Moon early tomorrow. They rise around 3 a.m. and are well up in the east at first light. Mars looks like a bright orange star just to the Moon's left or upper left.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2011


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