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Spirit Rover is Switched Off to Save NASA Money (Update)

24 Mar , 2008 by

To save the Mars Expedition Rover (MER) program some cash, controllers will be forced to switch one of the four-year old rovers into “hibernation mode”. NASA wants to cut $4 million from the MER budget, so extreme measures are needed. Sadly, operations will need to be limited and it has been announced today that activities will be stopped on Spirit for the coming weeks. Mission scientists are obviously demoralized.

[UPDATE (03/25/08): NASA has now announced that it has “absolutely no plans” to turn off the Mars rovers, only hours after mission scientists announced they had new directives from the organization to cut $4 million from budget cuts. When more news is forthcoming I will post an article as to what is going on… ]

This appears to be the case of a mission being too successful for its own good.

The MER project was only intended to last for a few months, but the two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have surpassed all expectations and continued to explore the planet for four whole years. They are so efficient, that they have braved the worst dust storms, battled through technical issues and even freed themselves from quicksand, there seems to be nothing standing in their way of these super robotic troopers…

Except NASA budget cuts.

When the money runs out, the rovers have to be shut down and this is exactly what is going to happen to Spirit, currently located on a sunny slope at Gusev Crater. Even though the rovers are in the middle of an extensive exploratory phase of the Martian landscape, a NASA directive must be enforced to save $4 million from the project’s $20 million annual budget.

Shutting down Spirit isn’t the only budget-saving measure to be taken. Opportunity’s tasks will now be severely cut; limiting commands to be sent from controllers to every other day, rather than daily.

MER controllers are said to be very demoralized by these measures. Although budget cuts can never come at a “good time”, the timing of this announcement is terrible as both rovers are operating at full strength and still have vast amounts of potential.

The problem is that NASA is currently being stretched to accommodate other Mars missions currently in operation. But when should a highly successful mission like the MER project end? Up till now, most Mars surface missions are good until they break down. In the case of Spirit and Opportunity, neither is showing many signs of breaking. So for now, controllers will have to hover by the “off” switch while budget requirements are met.

Source: PhysOrg.com


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MrBill
Guest
MrBill
March 24, 2008 10:27 PM

This is obviously outrageous. A crime to humanity.

robbinewman
Member
robbinewman
March 25, 2008 12:03 AM
I am sure the worlds greatest manufacturer and dealer in weapons can rake up a few million by curtailing some useless armaments program. The contrast in human accountability for funds applied to raise the “Spirit” and knowledge of humanity in space compared to the dark and “evil” armaments industry is mind boggling. Not to mention the human accountability and responsibility for resource allocation. We have limited resources to squander. Such outstanding creations of human endeavour as these Rovers should be run at maximum advantage. We are like lost adventurers trundling across the great plains of space and time and we need every bit of information we can “scout” to make it across. Humanity is sailing full speed towards… Read more »
Duane
Guest
Duane
March 24, 2008 8:00 PM

We stop a valuable research project on another planet because of a lack of $4 million. Just put Iraq on hold for 20 minutes and we won’t have to stop the mission.

sofista
Member
March 24, 2008 8:19 PM

A fin de ahorrar fondos del programa Mars Expedition Rover (MER), los operadores se verán forzados a pasar a uno de los robots exploradores (rover) al “modo hibernación” luego de cuatro años de servicio. […] Vía Ian O’Neill en Universe Today.

Kevin Koski
Guest
Kevin Koski
March 25, 2008 4:24 AM

This is just wrong,good old U.S. congress,cutting at everything they can as usual, maybe its time we cut off aid to worthless countries and start worring about our education programs and our space programs,maybe some of these politicians should make a donation,this is just the beginning ,it the Apollo program all over, lets just stay on Earth and show our igorance as usual.

Terragen
Member
Terragen
March 24, 2008 9:31 PM

Its ridiculous. Four measly million. Look at what athletes are paid. Look at where our government puts money. Into killing and lies. Great, lets shut off “Spirit” That will sure stop our economic troubles!

Idiots.

Mark Yannone
Guest
March 24, 2008 9:37 PM

Let’s think about this, boys and girls. A large team of professionals can arrange for a vehicle to run under remote control on another planet . . . but . . . they can’t think of a way to raise $4 million even though they have access to millions of eyeballs every day. (Ahem!)

Meanwhile, soldiers in Iraq are playing soccer with bundles of $100 bills.

What a pity that brains are so limited in their function.

Silver Thread
Member
Silver Thread
March 24, 2008 10:26 PM

Duane, your Comment is so Dead on the Money it hurts. For crying out loud, we have functional craft in place at this moment available to do research, and they are being shut down for four million dollars? This is ridiculous, and it is worth writing to Congress about.

Lois Baglin
Guest
March 25, 2008 5:33 AM

Almost person grief for spirit; I spent weeks painting (oil) from the first ‘photo’ ever from Mars, Adirondack.. But Spirit ha worked almost into the nano-era, an ongoing scientific miracle. When money by the billions is available to kill, bomb and maim, it is a tragic comment on ‘Leadership’ priorities than creative endeavour, symbolized by Spirit, can be doused for budget policies.

marcellus
Guest
marcellus
March 25, 2008 6:09 AM

We should find a way to keep the rovers going. I’m writing my congressman EVERY SINGLE DAY until he gets so sick of me he can’t stand it and votes for funds.

Robert
Guest
March 24, 2008 11:16 PM

This really makes me sick. I have followed the success of these two rovers since the beginning and have just been amazed what they have been doing and the data they have produced. Shutting the program down for $4,000,000? Isn’t that what Shaq makes playing basketball in about a week? Shoot, it takes $1,000,000 a day to run one aircraft carrier. Take it out of operations for a week and send that money to NASA! The good news I guess is that we are on our way back to Mars and there will be plenty more rovers to watch.

Adolfo
Guest
Adolfo
March 24, 2008 11:27 PM

Tough times call for tough measures. Let’s call Oprah! or any other celebrity for that matter. I assume there could be at least one that favors space science instead of the oft debunked global warming.

Alex Black
Guest
Alex Black
March 25, 2008 12:00 AM
It is a pity, but we really can’t cry foul over this. The rover missions have been extended, well past what they were originally budgeted for, a long time ago, and anyone who has ever had to live within a specific and limited budget can understand that eventually, the numbers will force your hand. I applaud NASA for finding the money to fund the rovers as long as they have; no doubt there were some in government (and within NASA!) who were shouting to shut down the rovers at the end of their original mission 4 years ago. Be content: they have served us well, and more and better missions are coming. This is the way it should… Read more »
john
Guest
john
March 25, 2008 1:32 AM

anybody got $4megs, better still $6megs to spare? if you do call NASA, they need you.

VINNY
Guest
VINNY
March 25, 2008 8:37 AM

Well, if everyone is so disgusted then why don’t you raise the 4 million! Its only 4 million. Someone has to be responsible for the bottom line.

Winston
Guest
Winston
March 25, 2008 4:19 AM

This project was a waste of time and money to begin with (but not as much time and money as endeavors to put people on Mars). The project has outlived its plans and expectations, stop throwing more money at it.

killmodell
Member
killmodell
March 25, 2008 5:03 AM

12 Billion a month in Iraq and we cant get a stinking 4 million to keep a successful mission going?

I think I am going to be sick.

Winston
Guest
Winston
March 25, 2008 5:08 AM

NASA’s budget is in the many billions per year. How many years have we been doing this and what have we got to show for it? Not much of a return for the investment.

baley
Guest
baley
March 25, 2008 6:17 AM

Outrageously ridiculous decision.

If they are not interested in using the Rovers, they can
at least transfer the command centrer to whoever wants to operate them. After all many countries tried to send landers in the surface of mars and most attempts ended with a crash!

Peter
Guest
Peter
March 25, 2008 6:44 AM

No spirit. No opportunity. Revolution.

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