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Daily Update - 1/30/06
Spirit Nears 'Home Plate'
Spirit Status for sol 730-735

Spirit continues to make progress toward "Home Plate," a conspicuous circular feature scientists hope to investigate before the Martian winter, in search of layered rock outcrops that may provide additional information about the geology of the "Columbia Hills." During the past week, the rover has driven nearly 100 meters (328 feet), and has still had time to do some targeted remote sensing. Spirit is currently just less than 170 meters (560 feet) from Home Plate.

During the past week, engineers noticed some anomalies in dynamic braking on two of the steering motors, similar to previous events on Spirit. Based on analysis and testing, they were able to continue the drive without incident.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sols 730 and 731 (Jan. 22 and 23, 2006): The weekend plan included a 10.8-meter (35.4-foot) drive to the crest of "Lorre Ridge." Spirit acquired targeted pre-drive and post-drive images. The rover spent most of Sunday recharging the battery to allow a longer drive on Monday.

Sol 732: Spirit drove 40 meters (131 feet), using a combination of commanded and autonomous navigation along with a parallel obstacle-check sequence to keep from getting too close to potential hazards. The rover acquired a pre-drive image of a target called "FuYi." After the drive, the panoramic camera and navigation camera acquired forward-looking mosaics. The next morning, Spirit acquired rear-looking images with the navigation camera and forward-looking mosaics with the panoramic camera using two more filters.

Sol 733: Spirit completed an automous drive of approximately 40 meters (131 feet). Just before beginning autonomous navigation, Spirit experienced a dynamic brake error in the left front and right rear steering actuators, at which point engineers halted the drive.

On the surface, this appeared to be similar to dynamic brake anomalies experienced on sols 265 (Oct. 1, 2004) and 277 (Oct. 13, 2004), which involved the right front and left rear steering motors. Analysis and testing at the time indicated that the problem was consistent with a delayed contact on the status relay. The rover engineering team sent a command to ignore the relay status, and since then, the rover has driven (with all steering motors enabled) without incident.

In the meantime, the team determined that it was safe to continue driving, but without using the left front and right rear steering motors.

Sol 734: Spirit drove approximately 9 meters (30 feet) autonomously. Engineers conducted the same diagnostic tests they ran following the sol 265 incident in the testbed, to verify that the procedures worked with the current flight software. While awaiting dynamic brake diagnostics, they disabled Spirit's left front and right rear steering motors and allowed Spirit to drive only where they could clearly see the surrounding terrain and it was not necessary to steer around any obstacles.

Sol 735 (Jan. 27, 2006): Planned activities included a short, autonomous drive with the left front and right rear steering motors disabled, following a short diagnostic activity to characterize the behavior of the dynamic brakes and the dynamic brake relay switch.

Odometry:

As of sol 735, Spirit's total odometry was 6,279.01 meters (3.9 miles).

Daily Update - 1/27/06
Opportunity Takes Microscopic Images, Collaborates with European Mars Mission
Opportunity Status for sol 708-714

Opportunity remains healthy following another busy week. The main activity of the week was taking microscopic images of a feature nicknamed "Lower Overgaard." The science team identified individual, high-priority targets of interest, nicknamed "Scotch," "Bourbon," and "Branchwater." After the microscopic imager successfully acquired images of "Scotch," one of the actuator motors on Opportunity's robotic arm (Joint 2, which controls elevation) stalled less than 1 milliradian from its final position. Engineers performed diagnostic activities on Joint 2 over the weekend and determined that the actuator appeared to function properly. Opportunity resumed work with the microscopic imager but was unsuccessful because of a stall on the Joint 1 actuator. Engineers increased the electrical resistance and Opportunity again began acquiring microscopic images.

This past week, Opportunity also supported coordinated observations with the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft, using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and panoramic camera, and also took images of a transit across the sun by Phobos. Science team members next plan to adjust the rover's position slightly to conduct microscopic analysis of another target area, nicknamed "Upper Overgaard."

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sol 708 (Jan. 21, 2006): Opportunity took microscopic images of a surface target dubbed Scotch on Lower Overgaard. Microscopic imaging was successful, but the Joint 2 (elevation) actuator motor on the rover's robotic arm stalled less than 1 milliradian from its final position.

Sol 709: Opportunity conducted diagnostics of Joint 2 during the weekend and acquired images of a Phobos transit.

Sol 710: Opportunity conducted remote science observations and supported Mars Express observations using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and panoramic camera.

Sol 711: Opportunity took thumbnail images of the sky and images of Mars' albedo (a measure of surface reflectivity) with the panoramic camera in support of a coordinated observations by Mars Express.

Sol 712: Opportunity took super-high-resolution images of targets known as "Loupp" and "Dewey" with the panoramic camera.

Sol 713: As Opportunity began executing a plan to take microscopic images of the Bourbon target on Lower Overgaard, a joint on the rover's robotic arm (Joint 1, which controls shoulder azimuth) stalled, preventing acquisition of the microscopic images.

Sol 714 (Jan. 27, 2006): Opportunity re-acquired some of the microscopic images of the target Scotch that were not fully in focus when first taken on sol 708 (Jan. 21, 2006).

As of sol 714, Opportunity's total odometry remained at 6504.55 meters (4.04 miles).

Daily Update - 1/25/06
Spirit Completes Studies of 'Arad,' Moves On
Spirit Status for sol 723-729

Spirit is healthy and continues to pursue the short-term goal of driving to 'Home Plate.' Results from scientific instruments on the rover's robotic arm indicate that the white soil target called 'Arad' has a salty chemistry dominated by iron-bearing sulfates. The composition is similar to that of a more silica-rich target, 'Paso Robles,' encountered earlier in the rover's journey through the 'Columbia Hills.' The presence of salt can be considered another clue to the existence of past water on Mars.

Spirit had a bit of difficulty driving out of the sandy area near Arad. Rover instruments recorded slip rates as high as 92 percent on the wheels before Spirit's drivers designed a command strategy that took Spirit away from the sand dunes and closer to Home Plate.

Spirit's engineering team broke a record the previous week, on sol 720 (Jan. 12, 2006), by taking only 2 hours and 35 minutes to plan and validate the uplink commands for the rover. To put that in perspective, at the beginning of the mission, when all of the rover's systems and science team members were brand new, the process took more than 13 hours.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sols 723 to 725 (Jan. 14 to 17, 2006): Spirit began a campaign to study different targets of the feature named Arad, using instruments on the robotic arm, including the microscopic imager, Moessbauer spectrometer, and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 726: Spirit terminated the sol's drive early because of high slippage on sandy surfaces. The rover took images and conducted atmospheric observations using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 727: Spirit drove 26 meters (85 feet), took images with the navigation and panoramic cameras after the drive, and conducted atmospheric studies using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 728: Rover planners successfully designed a drive that took Spirit away from the sand dunes and closer to Home Plate. Spirit took images following the drive.

Sol 729 (Jan. 21, 2006): Spirit conducted untargeted atmospheric remote sensing.

Odometry:

As of sol 728 (Jan. 20, 2006), Spirit's total odometry was 6178.96 meters (3.94 miles).

Daily Update - 1/20/06
Driving Again
Opportunity Status for sol 695-707

Opportunity has resumed driving after engineers determined an acceptable new way to stow the robotic arm during drives. With the arm in the newly approved stow configuration, the rover drove 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) on sol 707 (Jan. 19, 2006) to approach a rock called "Overgaard," chosen for close examination because of its cross-lamination texture.

When the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter was passing overhead, Opportunity used its panoramic camera and miniature thermal emission spectrometer for atmospheric observations coordinated with observations by the orbiter. The short Phobos and Deimos eclipse season started this week, and Opportunity observed transits of the moons.

Earlier, Opportunity completed a very long integration with the Moessbauer spectrometer and an overnight integration with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer on a target called "Ted." The panoramic camera finished high-resolution imaging of the area around the location where the rover worked for several weeks while engineers determined the new ways to use and stow the arm. Symptoms of a broken wire in a shoulder-joint motor had appeared back on sol 654 (Nov. 25, 2005). While at that location, Opportunity also put its arm into various positions and photographed it with the front hazard-avoidance camera, a calibration activity that the team dubbed "Martian Tai Chi."

Sol-by-sol summaries:
Sol 695 (Jan. 6, 2006): Continued Moessbauer spectrometer integration at Ted, sunset imaging, high-resolution imaging of an area with evidence of festooned crossbedding.

Sol 696: Overnight alpha particle X-ray spectrometer integration at Ted, imaging with the navigation camera for terrain and driving analysis.

Sol 697: Sky flat imaging with the microscopic imager, panoramic camera and navigation camera for image calibration. Normally the team would have stowed the robotic arm today (since arm work at this location is done), but since engineers have not yet determined the best stow position, we simply returned the arm to the ready position.

Sol 698: Observations with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and navigation camera, calibration activity the team calls "Martian Tai Chi." During this activity, the arm is commanded to a few different positions and the front hazard-avoidance camera acquires images at each position. The arm location as reported by the spacecraft is compared to the location shown in the images so the arm model and camera model can be calibrated against each other.

Sol 699: Photometry observations with the navigation camera, start of acquiring a high-resolution blue stereo panorama of the surrounding outcrop (the "Fenway Panorama").

Sol 700: Miniature thermal emission spectrometer observations of the atmosphere and several outcrop targets, continued photometry observations.

Sol 701: Completion of Fenway Panorama and photometric observations.

Sol 702: Thirteen-filter observations of Overgaard with the panoramic camera, atmospheric remote sensing.

Sols 703 to 705: Intended stowing of the robotic arm on sol 704 was not successful due to faulting out of the shoulder-joint motor. The miniature thermal emission spectrometer made atmospheric observations coordinated with an overflight by Mars Express on sol 705. The panoramic camera was used for some super-resolution imaging.

Sol 706: Successful stowing of robotic arm, panoramic camera observations coordinated with Mars Express, observation of Deimos transit. The resistance for the shoulder azimuth joint was increased to 65 ohms (from 58 ohms) for this stow.

Sol 707: Opportunity drove back 1 meter (3.3 feet), took images, then drove forward 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) to a target called "Lower Overgaard."

As of sol 707 (Jan. 19, 2006) Opportunity's total odometry is 6,504.55 meters (4.04 miles).

Daily Update - 1/18/06
Spirit at 'Arad'
Spirit Status for sol 715-722

Spirit is healthy and is driving as efficiently as possible toward "Home Plate." On the way to Home Plate, Spirit stopped to look at "Arad," where scientists encountered a cluster of white, powdery soil. Researchers decided to stop for a few days and use the robotic arm to conduct some measurements on it. Results are expected soon.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sol 715 (Jan. 6, 2006): Spirit performed untargeted remote sensing.

Sol 716: Spirit drove 54 meters (177 feet), using a combination of commanded and autonomous navigation.

Sol 717: Spirit drove only 1.38 meters (4.5 feet) on slippery terrain, experiencing slippage of 80 percent as the wheels were turning.

Sol 718: Spirit conducted untargeted remote sensing.

Sol 719: Spirit drove 9.3 meters (30.5 feet). The rover stopped when the slip rate of its wheels exceeded 80 percent in an area of sandy, unfamiliar terrain.

Sol 720: Spirit conducted untargeted remote sensing and atmospheric studies.

Sol 721: Spirit adjusted position to place the robotic arm next to Arad for a weekend of scientific measurements. The rover also used its panoramic camera and miniature thermal emission spectrometer to take images of targets called "Arad1" and "Arad2."

Sol 722: Spirit conducted untargeted remote sensing and took panoramic camera images of tracks created by the rover's wheels.

As of sol 722 (Jan. 14, 2006), Spirit's total odometry was 6,096 meters (3.79 miles).

Daily Update - 1/6/06
Putting the Arm on 'Ted'
Opportunity Status for sol 681-694

The rover team has kept Opportunity productive while engineers continue to evaluate the best posture for carrying the robotic arm when the rover resumes driving. The arm's position can be manipulated for full use of all the tools on the arm despite symptoms that suggest a broken wire in the winding of a shoulder-joint motor of the arm. The choice of a new position for carrying the arm during drives is a precaution against having the arm stuck in a stowed position if that motor becomes unusable in the future.

Opportunity's recent activities have included imaging of Jupiter, observing the atmosphere on every sol, progress on a multi-filter panorama of "Erebus Crater," and long integrations with the Moessbauer spectrometer and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer on targets "Ted" and "Hunt."

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sols 681 to 683 (Dec. 23 to Dec. 25, 2005): Moessbauer spectrometer integration on Ted, panoramic camera observations and atmospheric observations.

Sol 684: Post-brush microscopic image of Ted and Moessbauer integration on Ted

Sol 685: Moessbauer integration on Ted and panoramic camera images of targets "Claypool," "Paulden" and "Vernon"

Sol 686: Arm move to Hunt plus microscopic image of Hunt and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer integration.

Sols 687 to 690: Moessbauer integration on Hunt and remote sensing

Sol 691: Rock abrasion tool grind of Ted, post-grind microscopic imaging of Ted, and Moessbauer integration on Ted.

Sols 692 to 694 (Jan. 3 to Jan. 5, 2006): Continued Moessbauer integration on Ted and more images for the Erebus panorama.

Daily Update - 1/6/06
Spirit Heading to 'Home Plate'
Spirit Status for sol 708-714

This week Spirit completed robotic-arm work on "El Dorado." The rover used all three of its spectrometers plus the microscopic imager for readings over the New Year's weekend. The team planned drive sols the following four days, and Spirit successfully made 198 meters (650 feet) of progress on the way to "Home Plate." On sol 715, Spirit enters restricted sols and will be able to drive only every other day, so the team made a large effort to maximize driving prior to this. (Restricted sols occur when the timing of the communications pass from NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter is too late in the day to gather vital location and health information about the rover after it executed recent commands. The team back on Earth must wait until the next sol to find out where and how the rover is.)

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sol 708 (Dec. 30, 2006): Spirit used the Moessbauer spectrometer, miniature thermal emission spectrometer and panoramic camera to study El Dorado.

Sol 709: Spirit used the Moessbauer spectrometer, microscopic imager and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer to study El Dorado.

Sol 710: Spirit took pictures of "Edgar" with the microscopic imager, placed the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer on Edgar, and studied El Dorado with the panoramic camera and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 711 and 712: On sol 711, Spirit drove 56 meters (184 feet) toward Home Plate using blind driving and autonomous navigation. The autonomous-navigation portion of the drive terminated early because the rover could not find a safe path, and a limit cycle was detected. Due to the limit cycle check and automatic drive termination on sol 711, Spirit did not resume driving on sol 712.

Sol 713: Spirit drove 80 meters (263 feet). Spirit received stall warnings on the left front steer motor on hard left turns, however this did not end the drive.

Sol 714: Spirit drove 62 meters (203 feet). The team performed a steering test of the left front steering actuator because of the prior stall warnings. Preliminary results show no more stall warnings.

As of sol 714 (Jan. 5, 2006), Spirit's total odometry is 6,031 meters (3.75 miles).

Daily Update - 1/5/06
Spirit Meets 'Gallant Knight'
Spirit Status for sol 701 - 707

Spirit is in excellent health after a busy holiday weekend. The rover team made several three-sol plans in single working days so that while the rover was busy, the crew could take the holidays off (though with a few late nights on the work days).

After completing work on an outcrop called "Comanche," Spirit entered a dune field called "El Dorado," where the rover began digging in a little and looking closely for evidence about whether the deposited material there originated locally or globally. All of the week's objectives were achieved, including some ambitious drive sols that exceeded the team's expectations.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sols 701 to 703 (Dec. 23 to Dec. 25, 2005): Spirit completed a long Moessbauer spectrometer integration on the brushed target "Palomino," along with an overnight reading by the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer on the same target. The panoramic camera took a 16-frame mosaic from Comanche over two sols. That camera and the miniature thermal emission spectrometer observed targets in the immediate vicinity with informal names "Cheyenne," "Apache," "Kickapoo," "Chickasaw," and "Winnebago." On sol 703, microscopic images were taken of a fin-shaped feature on Comanche.

Sol 704 and 705: Sol 704's activities wrapped up the work on Comanche. Spirit drove toward El Dorado on both sols 704 and 705 as part of a three-sol plan starting on sol 703. The first driving sol began with 22 meters (72 feet) of directed driving followed by autonomous navigation toward the dune fields. The second driving sol would not have the benefit of humans in the loop, and so was purely autonomous navigation, picking up on the heels of the previous sol to get Spirit within striking range of El Dorado. The team expected to get perhaps 80 to 90 meters (263 to 295 feet) from the two sols of driving. However, by the end of Sol 705, Spirit had driven 118 meters (387 feet), and was about a one-sol drive away from El Dorado.

Sol 706: This was the week's only normal, single-sol plan, which allowed engineers and scientists to plan a drive into El Dorado and to respond on the next sol with a plan to attack the science objectives there. The team expected to use the subsequent three-sol plan to trench in El Dorado and the three-sol plan after that to examine the trench. In order to prepare for the trench, the team planned a scuff at the end of the drive. The scuff was to be just a third of a wheel turn to push up some of the sandy material. That would give engineers some data on the consistency of the material so the team would know how long to trench.

Again the rover drivers came through, and Spirit successfully drove 38 meters (125 feet) right into the dunes of El Dorado on sol 706. The rover got a nice little mound and cut into a dune with the wheel scuff. The science team took a look at the scuff and decided it was in fact good enough for the science objectives without a need for trenching, so the team ended up three sols ahead of the game.

Sol 707 (Dec. 29): The microscopic imager inspected the scuff in El Dorado on the targets "Gallant Knight" and "Pilgrim." Spirit also began a long Moessbauer spectrometer integration on Pilgrim. As of sol 707, Spirit's total odometry was 5,829 meters (3.62 miles).

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