1. Headline
  1. Headline
official at NASA conference
Ric Francis  /  AP
Scott McLennan, a member of the Mars Exploration Rover Project, helps update the rover progress at a news conference Tuesday.
By
updated 6/15/2004 9:15:12 PM ET 2004-06-16T01:15:12

The Mars rover Spirit has developed a problem with one of its six wheels, but NASA officials said Tuesday they believe the robot geologist can continue working.

The right front wheel has become balky, requiring more electrical current to turn, said Mark Adler, the mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Engineers are considering whether to simply continue using the wheel until it fails or drive on five wheels and only use the problem wheel when necessary. The Spirit rover also had a problem last week receiving commands from Earth.

The communication problem was the result of cold temperatures, which caused the rover's receiver to drift out of the frequency range in which the commands were sent. The range was broadened and the rover received commands after the loss of only one day of work, Adler said.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. At Home with TODAY: Sheinelle Jones is inviting you for the holidays

      Sheinelle Jones may be the newest kid on the TODAY block, but she’s already inviting you over for the holidays. As part of...

    2. Football coach takes player into his home after death of his parents
    3. Jimmy Fallon, Jerry Seinfeld laugh it up in ‘Coffee’ season finale
    4. Say 'cheese' — and yes! Man proposes to girlfriend in photobooth
    5. Ben Stiller on 'Interview': We're denying audience 'right to choose'

"So right now what we're seeing is Spirit's gotten a little hard of hearing due to temperature, not due to age, and also she's gotten a little bit of arthritis in one of her joints and that is due to age and that's a real degradation," Adler said.

Spirit and the twin rover Opportunity landed on Mars in January and completed their primary mission. They are now in extended missions.

Spirit is exploring the vast Gusev Crater region and has encountered strange rocks that cascaded down from nearby hills.

Scientists are intrigued with images of a rock dubbed “Pot of Gold,” which features round and football-shaped nodules in orderly groupings.

Other photographs revealed what scientists called “rotting rocks.” One resembles a decaying loaf of bread, its interior disintegrating and leaving a crust-like shell of material formed by an unknown process.

“It’s kind of difficult to imagine that somehow water wasn’t involved, but it’s too early to tell,” said Larry Soderblom, a science team member from the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz.

On the opposite side of Mars, Opportunity has entered a deep crater named Endurance to explore stratified rock that could open a window deeper into the geological history of the Red Planet.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

More on TODAY.com

  1. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

    At Home with TODAY: Sheinelle Jones is inviting you for the holidays

    12/19/2014 4:57:16 PM +00:00 2014-12-19T16:57:16
  1. FBI confirms North Korea was behind Sony hack

    The FBI on Friday formally accused the North Korean government of the hacking attack that led Sony Pictures Entertainment to cancel the movie "The Interview."

    12/19/2014 5:01:06 PM +00:00 2014-12-19T17:01:06
  1. Danny Johnston / AP

    Packaged caramel apples linked to 5 deaths, CDC says

    12/19/2014 5:26:46 PM +00:00 2014-12-19T17:26:46
  1. Kevin Moran / YouTube

    Say 'cheese' — and yes! Man proposes to girlfriend in photobooth

    12/19/2014 1:55:33 PM +00:00 2014-12-19T13:55:33