Mars Exploration Rovers Update - July 29, 2006
SPIRIT UPDATE: NASA's Spirit Rover Survives Record Cold on Mars - sol 908-914, July 29, 2006:
Spirit remains healthy and continues to make progress on computer upgrades and scientific research, despite winter temperatures colder than any yet experienced during the rover's two and a half years on Mars. Models show that at the coldest part of the Martian night, around 5:00 a.m. Mars time, temperatures near the surface have dipped to approximately minus 97 degrees Celsius (minus 143 degrees Fahrenheit).
With the deepest part of the Martian winter just around the corner, Spirit is collecting about 284 watt-hours of electrical power each sol from the rover's solar array (a hundred watt-hours is the amount of electricity needed to light one 100-watt bulb for one hour). The shortest day, winter solstice in Mars' southern hemisphere, will arrive on Aug. 8, 2006. The lowest amount of solar energy the rover is expected to receive is about 275 watt-hours per sol.
Spirit has put the finishing touches on a new version of its flight software -- assembling, checking, and saving 200 sections of computer code transmitted from Earth in recent weeks. The software upgrade will give the rover enhanced autonomous operational capabilities. NASA plans for Spirit to switch from its current flight software to the new version in coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Spirit is only one frame away from completing the long-anticipated "McMurdo panorama," a full-color, 360-degree view of the rover's winter haven amid the "Columbia Hills" in Gusev Crater on Mars. The collection of images from the panoramic camera, as with all scientific data, has taken extra time to complete with the sun lower on the horizon and solar power levels on the wane. During the week, Spirit also used the microscopic imager to get a closer look at a small ripple nicknamed "Palmer."
For the next several weeks until Labor Day, Spirit will communicate with Earth only using UHF-band relay via NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. The X-band Spirit uses for communicating directly with Earth will not be available while that frequency is used intensively by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in the final stages of trimming its orbit around Mars.
Sol-by-sol summary:
Sol 908 (July 23, 2006): Spirit took microscopic images of Palmer.
Sol 909: Spirit continued work on the McMurdo panorama and used its miniature thermal emission spectrometer to study a rock target known asSol 913: Spirit took microscopic images of a target known as "Palmer2."
Sol 914 (June 29, 2006): Plans call for Spirit to continue work on the McMurdo panorama.
As of sol 911 (July 26, 2006), Spirit's total odometry remained at 6,876.18 meters (4.27 miles).
OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Cleaning Event Gives Opportunity Renewed Energy - sol 886-892, July 29, 2006:
Opportunity spent five sols this week at a target called "Joseph McCoy." At this location, the rover acquired about 41 hours of Moessbauer spectrometer integration, almost seven hours of alpha particle X-ray spectrometer integration, and a mosaic from the microscopic imager. Then Opportunity rolled back, scuffed the soil, and drove 55 meters (180 feet) closer to "Beagle Crater." The scuff helps scientists and engineers analyze how the wheels interact with the soil. After the most recent drive, Opportunity is sitting about 25 meters (82 feet) from the rim of Beagle Crater.
Over the past 50 sols the team noticed a gradual cleaning of the solar panels similar to a more-sudden cleaning event experienced one Mars-year ago in "Endurance Crater." Removal of some of the accumulated dust on the panels allows greater production of electricity from sunlight. Opportunity's solar panels are now producing just over 500 watt-hours per sol.
Sol-by-sol summaries:
Sol 886 (June 22, 2006): Opportunity took microscopic images and an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer reading of the target Joseph McCoy. During the afternoon communication-relay session with NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, the rover observed the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer to profile temperatures of the atmosphere and surface. This sol also included a 13-filter panoramic image of a feature called "Jesse Chisholm" and an abbreviated morning observation of the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.
Sol 887: Opportunity took a Moessbauer reading of Joseph McCoy and a panoramic camera image of "Sand Sheet" (shot to the south to determine a path to Beagle). In the morning, the rover looked for clouds and made atmospheric measurements.
Sol 888: Opportunity continued the Moessbauer examination of Joseph McCoy and conducted a miniature thermal emission spectrometer stare at Jesse Chisholm. The rover checked for clouds and assessed a temperature profile of the atmosphere.
Sol 889: The rover restarted the Moessbauer spectrometer, used the miniature thermal emission spectrometer for a seven-point sky and ground observation, and checked for clouds with the navigation camera.
Sol 890: Opportunity restarted the Moessbauer spectrometer and did two stares at soil with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. The rover then stopped the Moessbauer observation and changed tools to the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer before the Odyssey pass. The rover began collecting X-ray spectrometer data on a target called "Ignatius."
Sol 891: Opportunity rolled back 1.5 meters (5 feet) and scuffed soil with its left-front wheel. The rover then conducted mid-drive imaging, completing a 13-filter panoramic camera image of the robotic arm's work area and the scuff. The rover drove 55 meters (180 feet) towards Beagle Crater. Post-drive imaging included a panoramic camera mosaic and navigation camera image mosaics in the forward and rear directions.
Sol 892 (July 28, 2006): Plans call for Opportunity to aim the navigation camera in the direction of the calibration target and take pictures of the sky, checking for clouds. Also, the rover is to use the miniature thermal emission spectrometer to profile near-surface and atmospheric temperatures.
Opportunity's total odometry as of sol 892 is 8,660.44 meters (5.38 miles).
Sol 910: Spirit continued work on the McMurdo panorama and cleaned and calibrated the rock abrasion tool.
Sol 911: Spirit continued work on the McMurdo panorama and gathered remote-sensing information about a target known as "Druzhnaya."
Sol 912: Spirit continued work on the McMurdo panorama.
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