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NASA's Spirit Rover calls home

An August 2005 self-portrait of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the solar panels still gleaming in the Martian sunlight and carrying only a thin veneer of dust more than a year-and-a-half after the rover landed and began exploring the Red Planet. NASA photo

WASHINGTON (BNS): There’s some good news. Finally, as expected NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit obeying to commands contacted on Thursday. There was wave of joy and excitement at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, when NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit communicated via the Mars Odyssey orbiter prompting the scientists to say, “She’s talking”.

John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, project manager for Spirit and its twin, Opportunity, said that this means Spirit has not gone into a fault condition and is still being controlled by sequences sent from the ground.

Callas said, “The baby is crying, which means it is healthy enough to communicate normally. Now we are analyzing the data we've received to determine what the next commands should be, but this is all good news.”

NASA said that the solar-powered rover still has low energy, a condition worsened by a dust storm in recent days. But, Thursday's communication confirmed that Spirit had received commands sent on Tuesday and that the battery charge had not fallen low enough to trigger a pre-programmed fault mode, NASA said.

Spirit has been operating on Mars for nearly five years in an exploration mission originally planned to last three months. The recent dust storm is clearing, but a coating of dust on Spirit's solar panels is reducing the rover's ability to generate electricity even when the sky is clear.

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