Spirit no longer roving

The Mars Spirit Rover has been stuck for months in a sand trap, and it hasn't helped that one of the wheels were broken in the first place while another wheel broke down as well. Efforts to get Spirit out of the sand trap now have finally been given up. Considering that it has roamed around Mars for six years (albeit over very small distances), far longer than its original three-month planned lifespan, that ain't so bad. And even with the Spirit rover being stuck, it will now be serving as a static station observing the Martian weather and seismological activity. Not to mention that Opportunity is still roving ...

Listening for the Phoenix

Phoenix Lander Amid Disappearing Spring Ice

The Mars Odyssey orbiter will be listening for radio signals from the Mars Phoenix Lander. Having ceased communications near the end of 2008 with the onset of the Martian winter, the Phoenix lander is extremely unlikely to have survived, but if it somehow manages to come back to life with the start of the Martian spring, it will be sending out signals that Odyssey should be able to pick up. The Phoenix lander was not designed to survive the Martian winter, so it would be extremely impressive if Odyssey picks up signals from the lander: it really would be like a phoenix in more ways than one (the other way being a resurrection of a cancelled Martian lander project).

There most likely won't be any signals from the Phoenix lander, though, but this is still an opportunity to remember the impressive achievements it made.


Curiosity may have killed the cat, but hopefully it won't kill itself. The Mars Science Laboratory, the car-sized rover that will eventually become the largest one sent to Mars, has just been renamed "Curiosity". Congratulations to 6th grade student Clara Ma for suggesting the winning name!

Clara Ma receives award certificate from mission engineer Suparna Mukherjee
Clara Ma receives award certificate from mission engineer Suparna Mukherjee

Bit rot from cosmic rays

Mars Rover
Mars Rover

It's common computer folklore that cosmic rays cause errors in computer chips. This is not actually true, or at least it is so rare that a cosmic ray actually manages to reach the ground and knock out a bit in a computer chip, that it might not as well happen compared to the far more common occurrence of an alpha particle emitted by ordinary materials causing errors in computer chips.

So it's rather a surprise that the Mars Rover Opportunity suffered a problem because it may have been hit by a cosmic ray. What is even more impressive is that the hardware in the rover could detect such problems. It's a testament to how robust its systems were designed to be.