After six years on the move, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit prepares for a new phase of science.

Transcript:

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(John Callas)For a 90 day mission, I remember when we landed we were excited, we would have three months to explore this region around our landing site...

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and we've basically blown the doors off that.

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You know for six years now we've been doing classic field geology on Mars, learning about the planet and its ancient past...

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and there have been powerful revelations that have come well after that prime mission.

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(Scott Maxwell)This experience with Spirit is something that I've really kind of integrated into my whole identity.

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You know, this has become part of what I do. And it looked, at the very beginning of the mission,

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like this was going to be something that I got to do for a very brief time, for three months.

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And that was terrific, and it was unique, and it was special, and I was really looking forward to it --

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and I never in my wildest imagination believed that it was going to go one for five years!

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(Ashley Stroupe)Spirit has really had to have a lot of "spirit" to keep going.

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It's been the little rover that could, in a way.

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It's had to work very hard for all of its discoveries.

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Two Years into the mission, well passed the prime mission, the right front wheel stopped working...

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and the wheel doesn't spin, so when we drive we drive backwards, dragging that wheel. And it would cut a furrow.

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And so it actually turned out to be yet another scientific instrument or scientific investigation...

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because it now trenched as we would drive along, revealing what's just beneath the surface.

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One thing that we seem to be finding almost anywhere we're digging this trench

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are these widespread deposits of various kinds of salts and minerals.

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They look this brilliant white or yellow in the color images.

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And that's because they're either sulfur or silica or salts of various kinds.

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And the really important thing about these minerals -- and salts in particular --

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is that the only way they form is with water.

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So the fact that we're finding these salts is real evidence that there was hot water

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over a very widespread area -- not just little isolated pockets.

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Mars really could have been a place that supported life.

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And without these rovers driving over these vast distances, far beyond their expectations,

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we would never have known that.

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That's one of the great discoveries that Spirit did, well after its prime mission...

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and as a result of one of the most serious mechanical failures we've had on either rover.

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Mars is a pretty harsh place. We've had dust storms before; we've had really low power situations in winter;

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we've had other small glitches that have caused us some tense moments,

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but Spirit seems to always find a way of turning some kind of adversity into something positive.

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(John Callas)April of 2009 we were driving on the west side of Home Plate...

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after we were unsuccessful in trying to go other ways around Home Plate.

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And the rover broke through what I would describe as a perfectly camouflaged "tiger trap".

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We were driving on terrain that we had successfully driven on before, but suddenly...

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the rover broke through a crust and was now embedded in some loose, soft material.

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It's almost like quicksand for the rover, and with just five wheels spinning...

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the only thing that was happening was the rover was sinking deeper into this material.

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So we stopped, and we did a very ambitious ground test campaign...

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where we built a sandbox on the ground and used one of our engineering rovers...

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and experimented with techniques trying to get the rover unstuck.

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The reality is, it's very difficult with just a five wheel rover to get it unstuck from this difficult predicament.

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(John Callas)We have a very ambitious stationary science campaign for the rover.

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For six years we've been driving both Spirit and Opportunity, not really taking any time to stop and 'smell the roses'.

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There's a lot of lander science that one can do, and we plan to do that with Spirit.

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Spirit's continued triumphs absolutely amaze me!

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Just the fact that we've had so much more of this mission then we ever thought we were going to have.

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What these rovers have done is that they have made Mars a familiar place.

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Mars is now our neighborhood. My team goes to work on Mars every day.

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And that I think is the great, intangible contribution of these rovers...

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is that Mars is no longer this strange, unknown world.

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Yes, it's still mysterious, but much of Mars is now known to us as a familiar place.

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NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
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