Mars Exploration Rovers Update - February 26, 2004

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Spirit Status for sol 53 Eyeing Martian Dust Devils posted Feb. 26, 3:15 pm PST

On sol 53, which ends at 4:34 p.m. PST on February 26, Spirit woke up to the 70s ballad "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas, with the anticipation of possibly capturing dust devils spinning across the martian surface. The rear hazard avoidance camera was commanded to "roll tape" from 12:00 to 12:30 local solar time to record these so-called "mini-tornadoes." The behavior of dust devils helps scientists track the transfer of dust on the red planet.

A final, .85-meter (about 2.8 feet) drive brought Spirit to its exact target at the "Middle Ground" site. The rover also conducted an examination, using its microscopic imager and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, of the magnet arrays that are collecting airborne dust.

In the coming sols Spirit will inspect the soil at its current position with the tools on its arm. Following that, the plans call for the rover to approach the rock called "Humphrey." After a thorough assessment of "Humphrey," the rock abrasion tool will be used to brush and then grind. Opportunity Status for sol 32 New Communications Plan posted Feb. 26, 11:15 am PST

On sol 32, which ended at 4:15 a.m. Thursday, February 26, Opportunity awoke to "Let It Be" by the Beatles. Opportunity's day was focused on getting a second Moessbauer instrument measurement of the hole created by the rock abrasion tool at the "McKittrick" rock site. The Moessbauer can detect spectral signatures of different iron-bearing minerals.

The data from the first Moessbauer spectrum of "McKittrick" was received on Earth Wednesday afternoon. The alpha proton X-ray spectrometer data from yestersol at this target was retransmitted to Earth again Wednesday to get missing packets of data that were not received during the first data communications relay. Opportunity also snapped pictures of the rock areas named "Maya" and "Jericho" with the panoramic camera and took miniature thermal emission spectrometer measurements of the sky and "El Capitan" throughout the sol.

The amount of power Opportunity is able to generate continues to dwindle due to the decreasing amount of sunlight (energy) reaching the solar panels during the martian seasonal transition to winter. Because of this, the engineers are adjusting the rover's daily communications activities. To minimize power use for communications sessions, engineers began a new "receive only" morning direct-from-earth communication relay. This lower-power communication mode was successful. Opportunity will continue with this approach to maximize the available power for driving and science activities as Mars moves farther away from Earth and the Sun in its elliptical orbit.

In conjunction with the morning communications session change, engineers added a second afternoon Mars Odyssey orbiter relay pass, which uses less power in transmitting data volume than direct-to-Earth communication. This additional Odyssey pass more than compensated for the elimination of the morning direct-to-Earth downlink. Engineers also continue to effectively use rover "naps" throughout the day to maximize energy savings.

The plan for sol 33, which ends at 4:55 a.m. Friday, February 27, is to take a very short trip (10 to 20 centimeters or 4 to 8 inches) towards the next rock abrasion tool target site, "Guadalupe."

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Hey NASA, Hey JPL - Fuck you. Stronger verbiage will follow.

Thomas Lee Elifritz

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Thomas Lee Elifritz

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