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ExoLance
Spirit marks sixth anniversary with uncertain future
Posted: Mon, Jan 4, 2010, 4:53 AM ET (0953 GMT)
Mars Exploration Rover (NASA/JPL) NASA's Mars rover Spirit marked its sixth anniversary on the Red Planet Sunday night as controllers struggled to free the aging spacecraft from a sand trap. Spirit landed in Gusev Crater on Mars on the night of January 3, 2004, and has spent the following six years exploring the region. Since April, though, the spacecraft has been stuck in sandy soil after the rover broke through a crusty surface layer. Efforts to free the rover are ongoing, but have been hampered by problems with two of the rover's six wheels. Project officials said that if they're unable to free the rover, they hope to at least improve its tilt to maximize the amount of sunlight on its solar panels as the next Martian winter approaches. In a worst-case scenario the rover may not be able to generate enough power to remain in operation as early as May.
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