Memories of Spirit…

While things are so quiet for Oppy I hope you won’t mind me taking some time to report on a new HiRISE image released yesterday, showing Oppy’s sister rover, Spirit, and her landing stage. It’s a pretty incredible image, and I’ve had a lot of fun playing with it with the new HiVIEW image viewer (thanks to Guy and Terry at the HiVIEW website who helped me with some problems, all sorted now!) and have some (I think!) rather gorgeous pictures to show you. But first, the image…

If you go here http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/ESP_025815_1655¬†you’ll see the latest image of the Spirit rover’s area of exploration, covering the whole of the region travelled by Spirit between her landing in Jan 2004 and her eventual fall into that ************ camouflaged crater beside Homeplate a couple of years ago now. If you zoom in on the upper left of the image you can see Bonneville Crater and, off to one side, the landing stage of Spirit. Here’s my first two crops from the image, which I’ve also played about with to pretty them up, I’ll admit. First, the wide-angle view of Bonneville and the landing site, and second, I’ve circled the lander itself.

Let’s remind ourselves of what the landing stage looked like when Spirit landed…

…and as Spirit drove off the lander, and prepared to head off across the floor of Gusev crater, she looked back to take this portrait of the spacecraft which had delivered her safely to the surface of Mars…

That was eight years ago. What does the landing stage look like now? Well, the new HiRISE image shows it looks like this…

I think that’s beautiful, don’t you? You can clearly see that the lander’s airbags are now very dusty from the way they almost blend into the ground. You can see that more clearly if you really, really zoom in on it…

And what about Spirit herself? How’s she looking now? Well, the latest HiRISE images (there were a couple taken, actually) don’t show Spirit in colour, but they do show Spirit…poor Spirit… still standing there beside Homeplate…

So… I looked at these new images, and couldn’t help wondering what we might have seen if HiRISE had been able to take pictures of Spirit after her landing. Hmmm. Maybe… something… like… this..?

…and what kind of picture might HiRISE have taken after Spirit had driven off the landing stage…? Maybe…something… like… this..?

Hmmm. Then I got to thinking way, waaaaaaay outside the box… What if Spirit had landed closer to the Columbia Hills… maybe even close to Homeplate…?

Things might have turned out very, very differently, eh? Oh well, we are where we are. And where we are, is looking at a beautiful new image of our long lost, but never to be forgotten, friend, Spirit.

Update: over on then unmannedspaceflight.com forum, image-maker extraordinaire ugordan (who had one of gis stunning portraits of Enceladus featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day yesterday, go take a look!) has posted a crop from this HiRISE image that he has colourised to make it look as “naturally martian” as possible, i.e. made it resemble the actual view you’d have through a window as you flew over Gusev crater. I thought his picture was so beautiful I decided to go back to my images and try to make them a little more realistic. They’re nowhere near as good as ugordan’s, but I’ll share them here anyway!

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7 Responses to Memories of Spirit…

  1. Ted L. says:

    Nicely done. Thanks for this. One day astronauts will visit spirit…maybe bot in our lifetimes because politicians can never get it right…still nice to think about.

    Thanks again

  2. Buck says:

    Never to be forgot.

  3. Triassic says:

    I know Spirit is stuck in a hole but does she still function, i.e sending data back?

  4. Even if she *did* phone home, we’re not listening. We gave her every chance we could — it was only right, because she’d given *us* so much — but eventually we had to admit that the chances we’d hear from her were so poor that they weren’t worth taking precious Deep Space Network radiotelescope time away from other missions. So we reluctantly stopped trying.

    Oh, man, but the idea that she *would* be phoning home and we wouldn’t hear her because we were pointed elsewhere — *that* idea breaks my heart. It’s not happening, but if it did … I’d rather she were dark forever.

  5. Brian says:

    Amazing photographs and images, I’ll forever be impressed by Spirit and Opportunity – those rovers are to me what Apollo 11 is to my father, a phenomenal scientific and exploratory achievement, and an indication of what humanity can achieve. No wonder there’s such emotion in the writing here!

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