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Emily LakdawallaFebruary 6, 2010

That's a lot of motion for a "stuck" rover!

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory posted a video to YouTube today showing what seems to be a remarkable amount of motion out of Spirit lately, especially given that she's supposed to be a "stationary science platform" now. The video consists animations from Spirit's forward and rear Hazard Avoidance Cameras -- the belly-mounted, fish-eye cameras that help Spirit understand the terrain immediately in front of and behind it.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

Spirit's last moves before winter
Drives by the Spirit rover from Jan. 14 to Feb. 4, 2010 (Sols 2145 to 2165) moved the center of the rover approximately 13.4 inches (34 centimeters) backwards. Since Jan 26 (sol 2157), drive commands have concentrated on placing Spirit into a favorable tilt toward the sun as the Martian winter approaches.

A little more context to these animations was provided by rover driver Scott Maxwell via his Twitter feed, which I've expanded on a bit in brackets:

Don't get too excited -- this is either the last drive or the next-to-last drive we will see out of Spirit for the rest of the winter, due to declining power levels. But it is an awfully promising amount of motion for a stuck rover, and it gives us something besides stationary science to look forward to in the Martian spring, about an Earth year from now.

Read more: Spirit, mission status, Mars Exploration Rovers

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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