The New York Times is reporting that Spirit, everybody’s favorite* presence on another planet, is finally to be abandoned. After exceeding the wildest expectations of its builders, Spirit finally gave up the ghost a little over a year ago. Nasa has been sending a daily call since then, with no answer, and tomorrow will be the last call. It is exceedingly unlikely that spirit will give any sort of response, but NASA will be listening through the end of the month.
I remind you of XKCD’s homage to Spirit (click through–the pic is too big for my lousy layout, and it is one which brings tears to my eyes), and repost my own verse from January 2010:
Why do we care about poor little Spirit?
A robot is shutting down; why all the fuss?
My theory, assuming you might want to hear it—
It’s not just a bot: it’s a real part of us.
For over six years, I could wander a planet;
This rover named Spirit would act as my eyes!
Much more than suspected, back when they began it,
So, yes, I’ll be sad when the poor creature dies.
You say, “it’s a robot—it never was living!
It’s metal and silicon, lenses and gears!
Exploring the surface of Mars, unforgiving,
Controlled from a distance, for over six years!”
Of course, this is true. It’s a robot, just driving;
It just blindly does what it’s programmed to do.
But it does so where I have no hope of surviving,
And when it shuts down, then I’m blind on Mars, too.
I think it is good that the “death” of this rover
Is met with emotion—a tear, or a frown.
We all hit the off-switch, when our time is over…
I hope you’ll feel likewise when I power down.
*We cheer for underdogs. Spirit’s twin, Opportunity, is still up and running, improbably and wonderfully.