Astro News Briefs: October 4–10

Spirit Showing Its Age

October 7, 2004 | The intrepid Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has been past warranty since it completed its primary mission in April. Six months later, the rover is continuing to slowly break down. First the rover's right-front wheel began to fail due to excessive friction this past summer. Now the steering actuators on the right-front and left-rear wheels seem to be failing. When the actuators are not in use, the motor acts as a brake. Currently the rover engineers are trying to troubleshoot the problem. One possible solution is to disable the brakes on those wheels permanently. Doing so would make steering more difficult and would likely introduce errors in drive direction.