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Airdate: Aug 13, 2012
Scientist: Stephenie H Lievense

Kids' Science Challenge: Sports on Mars - Spirit Stuck

Kids' Science Challenge: Sports on Mars - Spirit Stuck
At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, engineers are testing a rover in a simulated sand pit, in hopes of freeing Spirita rover that's been stuck in a real sand pit on Mars.

Transcript:
Spirit Stuck

Music

SL: "So, right now she's just really quiet, sitting on the surface all by herself, cold, trying to stay alive (laughs), waiting for the seasons to change."

JM: The 'she' in question is NASA's Mars rover named Spiritit's a robotic science station on wheels that's sent back some amazing photographs from the surface of Mars. But for over a year now, Spirit has been stuck in the sand on Mars. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Stephenie Lievense is an outreach coordinator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and she's giving Kids' Science Challenge winner Tyrone Hutchinson a tour of a JPL laboratory, where they've got a model of Spirit stuck in a sand pit exactly like the one on Mars, and they're trying to find ways to get the vehicle out.

SL: "So far they haven't been able to figure out how to get her out. And now they've stopped trying. Do you know why?"
TJ: "Why?"
SL: "There are seasons on Mars, just like on Earth, and right now it's starting to be winter on Mars, and when it's wintertime on Mars"
TJ: "So, it freezes, so she'd never be able to get out."
SL: "Absolutely. You got it. It gets so cold that the rover has to use any bit of power that she has just to stay alive. Do you know how Spirit gets her power?"
TJ: "Solar?"
SL: "Solar, absolutely. So she sucks up as much solar power as she can get, and uses that to charge herself up and keep herself nice and warm. But unfortunately in the wintertime, there's not that much sun. So she's kind of stuck. She has to just sit there and wait until it's summer again."

JM: At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, engineers continue to run tests in their sand pit, so that when the warmer weather hits the Red Planet, they'll have better luck of freeing the real Spirit. Pulse of the Planet's Kids' Science Challenge is made possible by the National Science Foundation. Check out kidsciencechallenge.com. I'm Jim Metzner.