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NASA’s Opportunity Rover Got Stuck on a Hill on Mars

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Mars Exploration Rover Mission, Cornell, JPL, NASA

NASA’s Opportunity rover just attempted to take on the steepest hill a Martian rover has ever climbed-and promptly got stuck there. Oh dear.

Opportunity sent back this harrowing photo of the view it saw when attempting to climb a slope to reach Mars’ Knudsen Ridge. The shortest route would have taken it over a 32 degree incline. That turned out to be too much for the rover which, over three attempts, spun its wheels enough to move 66 feet-but only managed to gain 3.5 inches.


NASA/JPL-Caltech

The incident serves as a good reminder of the problems faced by a robot vehicle when “get out and push” isn’t an option. It’s also an excellent argument for sending up multiple types of different rovers to a planet to deal with all the different kinds of terrains they need to explore-perhaps, for instance, the rover NASA has been working on for asteroid exploration
.

If you haven’t seen The Hedgehog (note: not it’s official name, though it definitely should be) in action, behold it’s tornado spin move!

NASA's Opportunity Rover Got Stuck on a Hill on Mars
NASA

Designed primarily to escape from sand traps on asteroids, it’s not hard to imagine them also spin-jumping their way across the hills of Mars like a terrifying army of robotic tumbleweeds.

Until its Hedgehog backing army can arrive, though, Opportunity found a temporary solution to its problem: It threw itself in reverse, escaped, and went around the hill instead of up.