Either Spirit or Opportunity, two rovers now conducting missions on Mars may have to be put to sleep due to NASA budget cuts.Rover arm NASA has ordered $4 million to be trimmed from the program’s budget.

Part of the budget woes stem from cost overruns of the next rover mission planned for 2009, which entails a rover the size of a hummer – and we know how much a Hummer costs.

The rovers currently cost $20 million per year to operate. Spirit likely will be put into hibernation sometime in the next few weeks. Let’s hope they’re not using the Windows operating system for the rovers. Whenever I put my computer into standby, I can’t get it to wake up about 10% of the time and have to do a full reboot. You might notice from my tone, I don’t like this news.

I would suggest delaying the mission scheduled for 2009 by slowing it down, stretching it out, or; here’s an idea that came out of the blue; put it into hibernation for a while. These current rovers are still successfully exploring Mars, gathering valuable data, and testing how long they can survive in the harsh Martian environment.

The funds could be reinstated, so this isn’t a death knell yet. However, it doesn’t look good. The rovers have gone way beyond their estimated life of 3 months, but like a good car, it’s no reason to scrap one of them yet.

Photo: Associated Press via NASA