Mars Exploration Rover Update - July 9, 2004
SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Tries Out Visual Odometry - sol 175-178, July 09, 2004
On sol 175, Spirit analyzed the new targets "Breadbox" and "Sourdough" with its panoramic camera and miniature thermal emission spectrometer. Spirit then got an up-close look at Breadbox with the microscopic imager, and deployed the M�ssbauer spectrometer on Sourdough for an overnight integration. In the middle of the martian night, Spirit did a tool change to the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and completed a five-hour integration before the sol 176 plan began.
Spirit spent sol 176 getting a battery re-charge and a front hazard avoidance camera calibration. The evening of sol 176, engineers commanded Spirit to wake up and enable the panoramic camera mast actuator heater so they could determine when the thermostat turns the heater on. The heater turned on when expected, which will allow Spirit to conduct a night-time miniature thermal emission spectrometer observation in a few sols.
On sol 177, Spirit successfully performed a series of observations on an interesting and shiny feature called "String of Pearls." The rover acquired two microscopic images of the target and an overnight integration with the M�ssbauer spectrometer and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer. As Mars' southern winter approaches, Spirit's energy resources become increasingly limited. Overnight tool changes and their associated heating take a big toll on the limited energy budget, and require some preparation and recovery to keep up Spirit's battery charge.
Spirit began sol 178 by stowing the robotic arm and then backing up 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) from "Hank's Hollow" in order to properly place the miniature thermal emission spectrometer to get a good view of "Pot of Gold" and nearby rover tracks. Engineers also took this opportunity to use visual odometry for the first time on Spirit. This is a technique in which the rover takes successive images of its surroundings during a drive and then matches features in those images on-board to compute how far and in what direction it has moved. Both the drive and the test went well, and ground verification showed that the matching worked quite nicely with the features in this terrain. Visual odometry will be important if and when Spirit starts driving on five wheels, since the actual drives can and will be rather different than what is commanded. The rover can use the visual odometry estimates while driving to compensate for the slipping and yawing that engineers expect with five-wheel driving.
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