| 12:33 PM EST

Volt? Leaf? No, Think NASA



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While the rest of the automotive world is buzzing about things like GM's announced doubling of the production volume for the Volt and anticipating Nissan's launch of the Leaf, we'd like to take a moment to acknowledge two vehicles that make the two aforementioned seem rather, well, not-so-high tech.

The Spirit and the Endeavor.

You haven't seen them rolling around, even though they've been motoring about since 2004. That's because they're on Mars.

What's all the more remarkable, these two little semi-autonomous vehicles have been operating in a way that completely trump's the Minnow's three-hour tour: When NASA sent them to Mars and activated them on the Martian surface in January 2004, they were meant to be on a three-month journey.

Opportunity is still on the move, on its way to a crater named “Endeavor.”

Spirit, on the other hand, got stuck in the Martian soil in April 2009, and while efforts had been made to get it back on the move, NASA reports that now, during the heart of the Martian winter, Spirit has been silent for quite some time. They are concerned that Spirit is at an internal temperature on the order of minus 55 degrees C, and consequently may give up its spirit. They've been sending it messages to contact Earth, but so far, all is silent.


While it is a little hard to discern, look at the left side of the photo, about 1/3 up from the bottom.  That is the Spirit’s wheel, stuck in the Martian soil.  NASA/JPL-Caltech photo

"It will be the miracle from Mars if our beloved rover phones home," said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program in Washington. "It's never faced this type of severe condition before--this is unknown territory."

The summer solstice in southern Mars, where the rover is located, occurs in March. If they don't hear from it by then, all may continue to be silent.

But just think about the accomplishment of those little vehicles. It somehow puts 100 miles per charge or 40 miles on battery power alone in a different perspective.