We hadn't visited the NASA Mars rovers in a while here at Gizmodo, so I thought I'd take a look today and see what they're up to. Unfortunately, things could be better.
You see, while Opportunity continues to function nominally after nearly six years on planet, its companion Spirit, on the opposite side of the planet, is really showing signs of age.
As we all know, Spirit has been stuck in deep Martian sand for some time now. That hasn't changed. What has changed is the rover's memory. It's going. NASA scientists are calling the issue "amnesia," and it isn't the first time this phenomenon has affected the rover.
Basically, what happens during an amnesia event is the rover fails to record any observations—scientific or otherwise—in its flash memory during power down time at night. Worse still, the cause is unknown. My uneducated guess is a Martian is playing with a magnet. Update: Fine. Magnets don't affect flash. I get it. It's now a ray gun.
The events are a nuisance for now, but could become crippling if they start happening more often. It's troubling, yes, but we must remind ourselves these rovers were built for 90-day missions. Spirit is currently going on five years, nine months. Even so, get well soon. [MSNBC]