1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Opportunity waypoints
NASA / JPL
While the Spirit rover waits out cold weather, mission managers for the Opportunity rover have mapped out its course in Meridiani Planum. After examining a rock named Stone Mountain, Opportunity is taking pictures of bedrock outcroppings, including another rock called El Capitan.
By Science Writer

Cold on Mars forced NASA to keep its Spirit rover parked for a day, interrupting a planned monthlong drive to a nearby crater, the space agency said Wednesday.

NASA could not send commands to Spirit late Tuesday because the cold prevented the rover from rotating a high-gain antenna toward Earth. The rover’s motors, used to position the antenna, were under a frigid shadow.

“It’s very similar to starting your car on a cold day,” said project manager Pete Theisinger.

NASA routinely warms the motors by passing an electric current through them. However, engineers had not set the current limit high enough to compensate for the lower-than-normal temperature of the shaded motors.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. TODAY's Takeaway: Savannah won't 'overshare'; rapping medic cracks up anchors

      Etiquette expert Thomas Farley guides the anchors — including expectant mother Savannah — on what’s acceptable for parents...

    2. Chelsea Clinton is pregnant! Former first daughter expecting first child this year
    3. After helpful mom accidentally steals car, rightful owner is found
    4. Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87
    5. Cool cats! Laid-back felines star in #catband music videos

The space agency got the antenna pointing in the right direction later in the day. By then, it was too late to continue the journey.

Temperatures on Mars can reach 100 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-70 degrees Celsius), which is about the coldest it gets at Earth's South Pole.

NASA planned for Spirit to resume moving overnight Wednesday, when scientists want it to travel nearly 83 feet (25 meters) toward a crater about 800 feet (250 meters) away.

Earlier this week, Spirit traveled a record 70 feet (21.2 meters) across the rocky Martian surface. Scientists planned for Spirit to reach the crater within the next three weeks.

Spirit’s twin, Opportunity, continued to scoot along a rock formation at its landing site halfway around the planet. It has been taking detailed pictures of the finely layered rocks. Initial results suggest the rocks formed from volcanic ash or compacted, windblown dust.

NASA sent the two rovers on an $820 million mission to look for geologic evidence that ancient Mars had liquid water for a long enough time to permit the development of life.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

TODAY's Takeaway
  1. TODAY

    Savannah won’t ‘overshare’; rapping medic cracks up anchors

    4/17/2014 8:38:13 PM +00:00 2014-04-17T20:38:13
  1. After helpful mom accidentally steals car, rightful owner is found

    When Nekisia Davis asked her mom to move her car and her friends' cars while she went on vacation, she didn't expect that she would instead accidentally move the wrong car, prompting the rightful owner to believe her car was stolen.

    4/17/2014 9:14:16 PM +00:00 2014-04-17T21:14:16
  1. Macy's

    Swimmer Ryan Lochte dives into underwear modeling

    4/17/2014 6:29:23 PM +00:00 2014-04-17T18:29:23
  1. Spencer Platt / Getty Images

    Chelsea Clinton is pregnant! Former first daughter expecting first child this year

    4/17/2014 10:32:13 PM +00:00 2014-04-17T22:32:13
  1. Edgard Garrido / Reuters

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87

    4/17/2014 8:24:21 PM +00:00 2014-04-17T20:24:21
  1. Have you tried an elimination diet? Weigh in on the food fad

    Could eliminating certain foods from your diet prevent allergies, fatigue, or headaches? Some people think so.

    4/17/2014 8:30:46 PM +00:00 2014-04-17T20:30:46