In 2003 Spirit, along with its sibling Opportunity, landed on Mars. The two Rovers became instant media celebrities, gracing magazine covers and dominating water cooler conversation around the world. A Nasa artist's rendition of the brave robotic figure, highlighted by the lonely windswept Martian plain, became the most popular Windows background of the year.
It was expected to be a short mission, lasting a mere 3 months. However the operation went much better than anyone expected and now five years later the two Rovers are still hard at work. Surprised? You're not alone.
"I thought they broke down long ago" said Joe Plumber.
"I thought they got full of dust or something" agreed Jill Carpenter. In fact a recent survey of trailer parks around the US found that only three percent of those surveyed knew that the Mars Rovers were still active and productive.
"That's the whole problem" mission manager Bill Nelson said with a heavy sigh. "Opportunity never cared about the media hype; it just wanted to do a good job. Spirit though, it lived for those news feeds. It loved the image of a lonely brave hero, exploring the unknown. But now, people have forgotten it. It simply doesn't feel wanted anymore."
Rover Driver Eric Baumgartner dolefully agreed. "We've tried cheering Spirit up, playing its favorite music every morning, making our command lines as zippy as we could, running diagnostics even when they weren't needed - but it hasn't worked."
Yet help may be just around the corner. Dr. Phoenix, a specialist in neurocircuitry, plans a novel new treatment approach. "The Rover bios is the key" explains Dr. Phoenix. "We're going to reset the system clock back to 2003; it will be just like computer Prozac. Within a single reboot Spirit will be back in its heyday all over again."
Bill Nelson hopes the treatment works. "Spirit is more than a valuable piece of outdated equipment, it's like a member of our family" he said, wiping away a single tear.