Engineers are exploring options with a test rover at JPL, trying to find the best way to drive Spirit out of her sand trap on Mars.


John Callas, Project Manager, Mars Exploration Rovers:
This is John Callas of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory with your Free Spirit Update.

Since we last updated you, we've begun the extraction testing here in our sandbox at JPL of our engineering rover in preparation for doing the actual driving on Mars with Spirit.

What the team is preparing to do right now is situate the rover for the next set of testing.

What we want to do is embed the rover.

So to do that, we are spinning each of the wheels individually.

You can see the left middle wheel spinning now.

That allows the wheel to sink in without moving the whole rover.

And so they'll do the five driving wheels to sink the rover down in,

just as Spirit is positioned on Mars, where all five of these driving wheels are embedded deeply in this soft, loose material.

We previously tested driving the rover forward, which we think is probably our most likely way of getting Spirit out.

But we want to look at all the options, so the next thing they'll do is driving the rover backwards to see if we can actually drive through this bad section on Mars.
So they'll set it up here and then proceed to drive this rover backwards to see what kind of progress the rover makes and whether the rover has any problems like with sinkage because that's one of the things that could spell real trouble for Spirit on Mars.

Text: Meanwhile on Mars.

Although we've been busy moving this rover down here on Earth,

Spirit, up on Mars, hasn't moved in over two months.

But that doesn't mean the rover hasn't been busy.

When Spirit drove and got stuck in this particular location it churned up the soil and the science team are very interested in this particular soil.

They've been using all the instruments on the rover to investigate it.

This is John Callas of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory with your Free Spirit Update.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

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