Credit: NASA

NASA has officially given up efforts to contact the presumably dead Mars rover Spirit. Things started going downhill for the rover back in the Spring of 2010 after attempts to free it from a mound of sand were unsuccessful. The rover was in a bad position for its solar panels to absorb power from the sun, and with the impending martian winter, engineers put Spirit into a sort of “hibernation” mode. They feared that the rover didn’t have enough power to run its heaters which protect the circuitry from the -125 °F temperatures that can occur during winter. Those fears appear to be correct, because now that we’re well into the Martian spring (for Spirit’s location), the solar panels should have collected plenty of power to run the communications equipment. But the rover has been silent for several months now, and the engineers believe the rover is truly dead.

The good news is that Spirit’s twin, Opportunity, is still going strong on the other side of the Mars, with no problems whatsoever. And furthermore, the death of Spirit comes after over 6 YEARS of operation. Loads and loads of valuable data have been gained from the rover, and it has lasted 25 TIMES its expected lifespan of a few months. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, these twin rovers are arguably NASA’s second greatest achievement, behind putting a man on the moon. For more, read Phil Plait’s post on this, or go straight to the source, NASA.

Back in 1960, a man named Joe Kittinger did probably the ballsiest thing ever done by any human being. EVER. He jumped out of a balloon that had lifted him literally to the edge of space- 102,800 feet above sea level. That’s roughly 20 miles. Not only was it by far the highest skydive (space-dive?) ever, but he also set a record for the fastest that a human being has ever traveled outside of a machine. Because he was free-falling through such thin air during the first few minutes of his jump, there wasn’t nearly as much friction to slow his fall, which allowed him to free-fall at supersonic speeds. Yes, he was traveling faster than the speed of sound, with nothing but a pressure suit around him to keep him alive. I can’t think of anything more utterly badass than that. Now a couple of people are trying to break Joe’s record by jumping from an even higher altitude. Frenchman Michel Fournier and Austrian Feliz Baumgartner are both attempting to make these jumps this year, according to an article on Discovery.com. Some would say these guys are totally crazy, but I say they are total badasses, and envy them. Watch Joe Kittinger describe his experience in this video:

NASA’s Mars rover Spirit will now become a stationary asset. The twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity were launched in 2003, and successfully landed on Mars in 2004. They were only intended to operate for 90 days, yet amazingly they have lasted 6 years. The news that NASA has abandoned efforts to free the Spirit rover from the pit of sand in which it’s been stuck for the last 6 months is somewhat saddening, but in context, it really doesn’t matter at all. These rovers are quite possibly NASA’s 2nd greatest accomplishment, next to putting a man on the moon. We should only be thrilled that this amazing little robot lasted as long as it did. Its mission is far from over, however, as it can still do plenty of science sitting right where it is. Of course, Opportunity is still mobile and NASA continues to drive it around, exploring new territory. Who knows how long these things will last? I have a strong feeling the abrasive dust that now coats almost every inch of both rovers will eventually take its toll, but how long that takes is beyond me. For more check out this article on Space.com. Here’s a cool animated GIF showing the last few maneuvering attempts to free it from the sand dune:

Photo by Steve Cross

Photo by Steve Cross

First of all, I can’t even explain how awesome the Those Darlins album release show was saturday night. They TORE IT UP! Go look at the tons of pics I took, and read the great review over at Nashville Cream. NOW. Then go check out the new Lake Fever Session featuring Hung Up On Me, Snaggletooth Mama, and DUI or Die.

Something else that blew my mind: reading that MGMT will be opening for Paul McCartney for two dates at Fenway Park in Boston. One year ago if you had told me MGMT would be opening for Paul McCartney I’d have laughed in your face. What a difference a year makes… (Via Brooklyn Vegan)

Spoon have been in the studio again, and already have new material coming out in form of an EP called Got Nuffin. Stereogum posted a link to Amazon this morning where you could stream it, but for some reason Amazon has since taken that down. No matter, it’s always good to hear new Spoon material. They have the uncanny ability to just keep on making good music, and they don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

For your daily eye-gasm, take a look at the Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog. I’ve linked to this blog several times before, as well as posted photos from the International Space Station, but I challenge you to ever tire of such beautiful imagery, because you can’t. Today’s post includes the image I posted last week of the Russian volcano, along with 34 others. Feast your eyes.

The Spirit and Opportunity twin rovers that have been operating on Mars for a mind-blowing 5 years now are starting to show their age. Spirit has been stuck in some sandy dirt for a couple of weeks and engineers are having quite a time trying to get her free. They’ve even created a website called “Free Spirit” to chronicle the progress being made. Basically, they have to take different types of dirt from earth and blend them together to simulate the martian soil as closely as possible, then build a dummy replica of the rover and try to position it exactly how the real rover is positioned in the dirt. No one at NASA ever dreamed that these 2 rovers would last this long (the original mission plan was for only a few months!) so it’s not a huge loss if they can’t get her free. At least Opportunity is still in good shape.