Mars Exploration Rover Update - April 8, 2005

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SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Switchbacking Uphill - sol 442-448, April 08,
Spirit continues slipping in sandy terrain but forges ahead using
techniques such as switchbacking and creating a zigzag course.
Sol-by-sol summaries:
Sol 442 (March 31, 2005):
Spirit drove successfully uphill for 12.6 meters (41.3 feet). At the
start of the drive, Spirit averaged a 42.7 percent slip, but this
quickly improved. In the last 3 meters (10 feet), Spirit only slipped
14.6 percent. The average slip for the drive was 17.6 percent.
Sol 443:
Spirit performed 4 hours of targeted remote sensing, which included
panoramic camera images and miniature thermal emission spectrometer
Sol 444:
The team planned a long drive through tricky terrain with switchbacks
help Spirit ascend. Spirit drove approximately 8.8 meters (29 feet).
Sol 445:
Spirit performed remote sensing in the afternoon, including an image
brightness test with the navigation camera. The goal of this test is to
establish the latest time when Spirit can take images prior to sunset
and still have viable images to use in the rover drivers' planning
tools. The image analysis may allow the rover team to use later times
for post-drive imaging and thus increase Spirit's drive time every sol.
This is part two of the testing.
Sol 446:
Spirit and Opportunity use NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter as their main
communications link between Mars and Earth. On April 2, Odyssey entered
"safe mode," which is a protective state a spacecraft automatically
enters when onboard fault protection software instructs the spacecraft
to disregard its onboard sequence of commands and wait for instructions
from the ground. As a result, relay communication with the rovers was
suspended, and Spirit did not receive any data from sols 444 and 445.
With an unknown status of the rover after its drive, the Spirit team
restricted rover operations to remote sensing.
Sol 447:
The Odyssey flight team scrambled to recover the orbiter, but it
remained in a safe state, not yet available to support relay
communications. Spirit received very little information from its
"direct-to-earth" communications link, so the rover team planned
basic remote sensing sol, which generated little data.
Sol 448 (April 7, 2005):
Spirit performed additional remote sensing, including panoramic camera
and navigation camera imaging. The Odyssey team brought the orbiter
on-line, the Spirit team received all imaging needed for continuing to
drive, and team members are planning to drive on sol 449 with a new
appreciation for their orbiting partner! The Odyssey team is
investigating the cause behind the fault protection software sending
orbiter into safe mode.
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