If you have a rough map of Mars a picture would help, but how far away are the three big rovers on Mars from each other? Is there any possibility of "roadside assistance" on Mars to "unstick" and recharge Spirit? Curiosity, being as big as she is, should have no problem nudging Spirit out of her predicament and angling her toward the sun to recharge, get back to work, and quit slacking off!!


4 Answers 4


Not a chance. From NASA, here's the locations of everything that's landed on Mars (Well, NASA missions)

Curiosity is kind of close to Spirit, but keep this in mind. The equatorial circumference is about 13,000 miles. I'd guess the distance is over 1000 miles, far further than any rover has gone before, or is likely to ever go. There's just much more interesting things to do than go bail out a dead rover across the planet. This map from Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society shows where all of the spacecraft are on Mars, including failed ones.

enter image description here

Keep in mind they have multiple landers so that one can learn about different areas of Mars. Otherwise, they'd only need one rover... And while a theoretical mission could be done to save Spirit, it's just not practical.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Well, there is also this small problem (image made using MGS MOLA Shaded Relief and Mars Feature Layer Landers and Nonmenclature [SIC] layers in Mars Orbital Data Explorer). MSL would first have to find its way out of Gale crater and it's currently headed in the wrong direction, towards crater central Aeolis Mons, aka Mount Sharp. $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Feb 10, 2015 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, so physical-presence is a no-go. What about communication? Could Curiosity attempt to contact Spirit and relay info (if any) back to Earth? The current assumption is that it sufferred cold damage due to not getting enough power to heat it's internals - is it also possible that it's unable to communicate with Earth due to dirty solar panels not providing enough power? - if so, could it have enough to communicate the ~2500m to Curiosity? $\endgroup$
    – Robotnik
    Feb 11, 2015 at 10:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Communication on the frequencies used by Curiosity and Spirit is pretty much line of sight (X-band), which on Mars is very hard pressed for more than a few miles. Even on Earth, at the highest mountains, you're hard pressed for more than few hundred miles. So the answer remains the same even for communication purposes. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Feb 11, 2015 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ I can't seem to find the answer relating to this, but NASA has a report out that gives some data on Mars-local communication. If I recall correctly, you need to stay below about 2 MHz for reasonably reliable over-the-horizon communication on Mars. That's far below what I imagine any Mars spacecraft is designed to do, as their purpose is to communicate back to Earth. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Feb 5, 2016 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Robotnik see the question about voyager being used to contact other probes, it's likely that- even if they had LoS- they wouldl not be able to communiate due to Spirit lacking protocols to "listen" from a ping (or any signal at all) from curiosity. $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2018 at 19:18

Opportunity is roughly 10,000 km away from Spirit in a straight line. At its top speed of 0.05 m/s (0.18 km/h), it would take approximately 2300 days to reach Spirit -- not that Opportunity can maintain that speed. Between limited electrical power, needing to slow down to navigate, and being unable to drive at night, driving is much slower. Based on the performance of the week of October 27, 2010, a more reasonable speed estimate is 60 meters per day, or about 450 years to reach Spirit.

Curiosity is much closer, at about 2500 km. It has a rated travel speed of 200 meters per day, but this is mainly due to navigation restrictions rather than power limitations. Improved techniques might be able to get it up to its rated driving speed of 90 meters per hour, and since the rover's RTG operates just fine at night (unlike Opportunity's solar panels), continuous driving might be possible. In this case, it would take about 1200 days for Curiosity to reach Spirit, assuming it didn't need to detour around any major obstacles. This is, of course, assuming that the wheels don't wear out.


According to Wikipedia, it's likely that Spirit has suffered permanent damage from cold as a result of insufficient power to run its heaters; any future rover which had the ability to fix that sort of thing would be so much more sophisticated than our current rovers that there would be no point in doing so.

In any case, Spirit operated more than 20 times longer than it was designed to, which seems enough to earn it a permanent rest; maybe some day we'll be able to put it in a museum on Mars.

  • $\begingroup$ It would be great if these rovers would be recovered in the future, at least to sit in a museum ! :) $\endgroup$
    – Manuki
    Feb 27, 2019 at 19:19

I know this is a dead thread but let me go ahead and point out that 1. Opportunity is out of action, hopefully temporarily 2. We wouldn't want Curiosity OR Opportunity to get in the same situation as Spirit

  • $\begingroup$ Hot questions never die. Aside that, with reference to Russell's response above & according to Opportunity Wiki; it had operated for over 55 times its designed lifespan. Opportunity deserved an eternity hibernation with its grand achievements (if ever a revive is unlikely). Opportunity, Spirit and much more yet ongoing will live in our mind forever, at least for me, aren't they? $\endgroup$
    – not_Prince
    Dec 18, 2018 at 2:01
  • $\begingroup$ temporarily... that didnt age well $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Nov 14, 2020 at 18:37

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