Thursday, July 02, 2009

Science Fiction Musings for Spirit

Spirit, the Mars Rover that is stuck in some fine sand, has been in the back of my mind lately. She's stuck, but she's still conducting experiments -- the local geology is very interesting.

I, of course, am coming up with crazy ideas for unsticking her. They probably will get better ideas from the sandbox on Earth and the Faux-Spirit playing there. Still, I wondered if the RAT might be used to create an electro-static charge to make the sand clump together more (answer: nope, probably not, and anyway, Spirit's arm doesn't reach underneath so well).

Now, I wonder if the robot's wrist and equipment "hand" could be used as a seventh wheel (yes, I know that would probably ruin the RAT, the microscopic imager, and the two spectrometers on Spirit's hand -- and they'd have to re-program the tools' "curb detectors").

Other ideas that I've come up with and discarded... using the solar panels as a kind of sail to push Spirit out (I think the panels can't move once they're open -- and I'm not sure Spirit might not get knocked over by a really big gust)... using the RAT to dig for moisture to make the sand clump together (not sure the RAT is that big, can dig that far, or if there's enough moisture under the sand). Using Spirit's body somehow to condense liquid (or ice) to get enough to make the sand clump together (except that Mars is pretty arid and I'm not sure where on water's triple-point phase diagram the current Martian temperature and atmospheric pressure are)...

There are magnets on Spirit, but they can't move... and the high-gain antenna probably couldn't be used as a sail, either... And there's no line or cable for Spirit's hand to reel in... What would R2D2 do (and I'm talking pre-remake, old-style R2D2 from the 80's)?

Oh well. I guess they'll have to do what we used to do in Minnesota snow -- figure out the best way to rock Spirit back and forth to pack down enough of a track to back out of (while missing the rock poking up at Spirit's belly).
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