While Spirit rover is embedded on Mars, engineers on Earth are working feverishly to design an escape plan. Get the latest from Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager, John Callas, in the first of many "Free Spirit" updates.


Subtitle: Bringing Mars to Earth John Callas, Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager: We're here in our test facility at JPL trying to help Spirit on the surface of Mars.

Spirit had become embedded in some loose, soft material and the rover is having difficulty extracting herself.

So what we've done, since we can't send people to Mars to help the rover, we're bringing Mars down here to Earth.

So we're in the process of recreating the conditions where Spirit is stuck in this facility.

The soil where Spirit has trouble moving is a very light, fluffy material.

So what we've done is develop a simulant here at JPL, from a constituent of different materials, and we're creating that material -- producing, mixing it -- and spreading it in our test box here, and then conditioning the soil, landscaping it, if you will, to be just like the terrain on Mars.

And then we'll take our engineering rover which is just like Spirit, the exact same size, and we'll put out engineering rover into this facility, deliberately embed it the same way Spirit is stuck.

And then experiment with extracting, trying to get the rover out. Trying to figure out what works here before we do it for real on Mars because there's always a risk that something we may try actually may make things worse and we want to avoid that.

So we want to find out what things work, what doesn't and avoid the things that don't work and focus on the things that do work.

We expect that it'll take some time for us to complete the testing here at JPL and then to actually extract Spirit on the surface of Mars.

So we will be regularly updating you on the progress both here on the ground and on the surface of Mars.

I'm John Callas, project manager for the Mars Exploration Rovers, here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology
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