Universe Today announced yesterday that NASA had decided to shut down one of the Mars rovers, Spirit, in order to save $4 million on its budget - then the agency abruptly reversed itself overnight after a huge netstorm of protest.
"You could almost hear the news sites and blogs rumble to life last night as the news surged through the web about NASA needing to cut $4 million from the MER program. Reports flooded in that the rover scientists were shocked and saddened by this surprise turn of events, the whole world seemed to react. Every other story on Digg.com showed a new article about the budget cut, and looking through the comments, most reactions were of shear disgust about the short-sightedness of the government funded space agency. After all, Spirit and Opportunity represent the most successful robotic planetary mission ever; to simply switch one of them off seemed like a crime."
The two rovers represent what is likely the most successful robotic mission ever, expected to last on the Martian surface only a few months after their 2004 landings. However, due to some extraordinary life saving measures and excellent mission planning adjustments over the last couple of years, they have not only survived brutal storms, extreme Martian winters and mechanical issues, but managed to explore and discover new items about our planetary neighbor that would be impossible without the litttle rovers. The AP is reporting that the budget cut letter was sent without NASA administrator Michael Griffin's approval, hence the reversal.