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Daily Update - 10/28/05
Spirit in 'Kansas'
Spirit Status for sol 641-646

Spirit drove to an outcrop informally named "Kansas" to prepare for a series of robotic arm activities on a target called "Kestrel."

Engineers tested a new UHF-only operation for Spirit. Throughout the mission, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has been successfully receiving data from the rovers using its UHF (ultra-high frequency) antenna and relaying the data to Earth. In the new UHF-only operation, the team attempted to demonstrate how Spirit could also receive commands from Mars Odyssey via UHF antennas. Spirit usually receives commands through its high gain antenna, which collects radio waves in the X-band sent directly from Deep Space Network antennas on Earth.

During sols 641 through 645, Mars Odyssey attempted both to send commands to Spirit and to collect data from Spirit. The commanding was successful on sols 640 and 645, but on sol 644, during receipt of the command bundles, Spirit's computer reset due to flight software difficulties with handling the command loads at the rate of 8 kilobits per second. As a result, all the active sequences were deactivated and Spirit went to automode.

On sol 646, Spirit recovered from automode and continued the robotic arm work on Kestrel.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sol 641 (Oct. 22, 2005): Spirit performed targeted remote sensing.

Sol 642: Spirit drove toward the outcrop Kansas to prepare for using tools on its robotic arm to study the outcrop. The drive was successful.

Sol 643: Spirit performed untargeted remote sensing and attempted to observe meteors at night. The team could not confirm any meteors in the pictures from sol 643.

Sol 644: The original plan for sol 644 was to deploy the robotic arm, then to take images of the target area Kestrel with the microscopic imager both before and after brushing the area with the rock abrasion tool. The plan also included an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer reading of the brushed surface at night. A computer reset occurred during the morning Odyssey communications pass of sol 644, and the rover went into automode, so it did not carry out the original plan.

Sol 645: Spirit remained in automode on sol 645, but data indicated that the rover was healthy. Commands were then sent successfully via the Odyssey spacecraft's UHF antenna.

Sol 646: Spirit carried out the science activities from sol 644's plan. The rover is back to normal operation.

As of the end of sol 646, (Oct. 27, 2005), Spirit has driven 5,113 meters (3.18 miles).

Daily Update - 10/21/05
Maneuvering Around Ripples
Opportunity Status for sol 613-618

Opportunity is healthy and has been making excellent progress around "Erebus Crater." At the beginning of the week, the rover was in automode as it was still recovering from a partial uplink, but on sol 614 the team sent a real-time activate command and the rover performed remote sensing. The team is no longer operating under restricted sols, and Opportunity traveled 101.65 meters (333 feet) in four sols. The rover is generally heading westward around the crater, but traveled northward on sol 618 to avoid some larger ripples to the west.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sol 613 (Oct. 14, 2005): The team planned untargeted remote sensing. However, the master sequence did not run because Opportunity was in automode.

Sol 614: The team sent a real-time command to activate the sol 614 master sequence. The plan included remote sensing.

Sol 615: Opportunity completed an 18.5-meter (61-foot) drive heading westward around Erebus Crater.

Sol 616: Opportunity drove 24 meters (79 feet), with an average slip of 2.3 percent.

Sol 617: The rover completed a 43.65-meter (143-foot) drive, zigzagging around low points in the ripples.

Sol 618: Opportunity completed a 15.5-meter (51-foot) drive on outcrop, heading northward to find some lower ripples to cross.

As of sol 618 (Oct. 19, 2005) Opportunity has driven 6,138.07 meters (3.81 miles).

Daily Update - 10/21/05
Spirit Begins Downhill Drive
Spirit Status for sol 634-640

Spirit is healthy and has begun driving downhill from the top of "Husband Hill" toward the south basin. Elevation maps produced from the panoramic camera imagery taken at and near the summit of Husband Hill showed a safe traverse (with vehicle tilts under about 20 degrees) across ridge lines east of the summit. These ridge lines (informally called "Haskin upper ridge" and "Haskin east ridge") are the planned traverse paths for coming weeks. When possible, Spirit will drive each day.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sol 634 (Oct. 15, 2005): Spirit finished investigating a rock outcrop called "Hillary" near the summit of Husband Hill. Spirit used the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and the microscopic imager to study Hillary, then Spirit stowed the robotic arm. Spirit bumped back about 2 meters (7 feet) from the outcrop to complete remote imaging. Spirit used the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and panoramic camera to study targets on Hillary.

Sol 635: Spirit drove 47 meters (154 feet) east from the summit.

Sol 636: Spirit took images with the navigation camera and performed atmospheric observations.

Sol 637: Spirit drove 20 meters (66 feet) during the first of a series of drives toward Haskin upper ridge. There is an apparent drop-off near this ridge; therefore, each drive begins with a short 10-meter (33-foot) "blind" drive, followed by drives using hazard-avoidance cameras and decreased limits on how far the rover can tilt in any direction. The intent is to stop a drive short of any significant change in local elevation.

Sol 638: Spirit drove 29 meters (95 feet) during the second drive to the Haskin upper ridge. Spirit also observed the moons Phobos and Deimos at night.

Sol 639: Spirit covered 17 meters (56 feet) during the third drive of the approach to Haskin upper ridge. This left Spirit about 15 meters (49 feet) from the drop-off and near an area with rock outcrops.

Sol 640: Spirit's planned activities for sol 640 were devoted to remote sensing of the east basin, expected to be within view after the third leg of the sol 639 drive.

As of the end of sol 639, (Oct. 20, 2005), Spirit has driven 5,107 meters (3.17 miles).

Daily Update - 10/17/05
Spirit Wiggles into a Sturdy Workspace
Spirit Status for sol 626-633

Spirit is healthy and spent the week examining a rock called "Hillary" at the true summit of "Husband Hill." The first attempt to approach Hillary ended with a small pebble under Spirit's left front wheel, and the stability of the rover was uncertain. A set of wheel wiggles was performed to stabilize the rover before deployment of the robotic arm. Once the wheel was in good contact with the ground, Spirit began a conservative robotic-arm campaign, started with Moessbauer spectrometer and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer integrations.

Sol-by-sol summaries: Sol 626 (Oct. 6, 2005): Spirit began sol 626 on a steep slope, with Hillary in the work area. However, the right front wheel did not look like it was in stable contact with the ground. A set of three wheel wiggles and a final move to steer the wheels against the slip direction reduced Spirit's overall tilt by two degrees.

After looking at several images, rover meshes and RSVP simulations, the planning team was able to determine that the wheel was in a more stable area than it had been earlier. Rover meshes are three-dimensional terrain maps that are created by rover team members by "gluing" together multiple pieces of data from the hazard-avoidance cameras (up-close images), navigation cameras (middle distance images), and panoramic cameras (far-away images) to give a view of the Martian landscape for multiple tactical purposes. RSVP stands for Rover Sequencing and Visualization Program. The rover planners use this software tool to plan sequences of commands for driving and robotic arm work. It can simulate the sequence, showing a model of the rover superimposed on actual images of the Martian terrain.

Sol 627: Spirit deployed the robotic arm. When the arm is deployed while the rover is on a slope, the degree to which the rover is tilting may change. The team expected a change of less than 0.3 degrees and saw only a 0.005 degree change.

Sol 628: Robotic arm work continued with a Moessbauer spectrometer placement on the first of two targets. Targeted remote sensing was also performed.

Sol 629: Spirit continued Moessbauer spectrometer integration and remote sensing.

Sol 630: Spirit changed tools to the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and made observations with the navigation camera.

Sol 631: Spirit placed the Moessbauer spectrometer on a second target, performed targeted remote sensing and made nighttime observations with the panoramic camera.

Sol 632: Spirit continued the Moessbauer spectrometer integration and remote sensing. The rover also used the miniature thermal emission spectrometer at night.

Sol 633: Spirit took pictures of targets on Hillary using the microscopic imager, performed an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer integration at night and checked for dust devils.

As of the end of sol 633, (Oct. 13, 2005), Spirit has driven 4,993 meters (3.10 miles).

Daily Update - 10/11/05
Opportunity Backs Out of Potentially Sticky Situation
Opportunity Status for sol 599-605

Opportunity is healthy and traveling westward around "Erebus Crater." The rover is running in restricted sols, so the team is able to drive it only every other sol and has been doing so. On sol 601, Opportunity drove 34 meters (112 feet). On sol 603, the team planned a 45-meter (148-foot) drive. However, after the first 5-meter (16-foot) segment, the onboard slip check reported 44.5 percent slip. Because slip limits had been set to 40 percent, the drive was successfully stopped. On sol 605, the rover drove 5.3 meters (17 feet) back to outcrop material.

Note: The onboard slip check uses visual odometry to compare nearby features and determine the actual distance traveled. Software computes the amount of slip based on the difference between the actual distance traveled versus commanded wheel rotations. The team has defined a maximum allowable percentage of slip, and if the computed slippage exceeds the maximum allowable, further driving is precluded.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sols 599 and 600 (Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2005): The team planned two sols of remote sensing, including coordinated observations by the panoramic camera and miniature thermal emission spectrometer and use of the navigation camera to complete a 360-degree panorama.

Sols 601 and 602: Opportunity drove 34 meters (112 feet) on sol 601, heading northwest, to have a better view of the westward path. The drive was successful, and the maximum slip was reported at 2.5 percent. For sol 602, the team planned remote sensing.

Sols 603 and 604: On sol 603, the team scheduled a 45-meter (148-foot) drive. The first portion of the drive was blind for 35 meters (115 feet) with slip checks every 5 meters (16 feet), followed by 10 meters (33 feet) of autonomous navigation. However, after the first 5-meter (16-foot) segment, the onboard slip check detected slippage higher than the limit that had been set as a precaution, and the rover properly stopped. Wheel sinkage was approximately 5 centimeters (about 2 inches) for the left front wheel and 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) for the right front wheel. On Sol 604 the rover performed untargeted remote sensing.

Sol 605 (Oct. 6, 2005): The team analyzed the rover's position and the terrain and decided to back up Opportunity about 5 meters (16 feet) onto outcrop, the starting point of sol 603's drive. The sol 605 drive included slip checks and hazard-avoidance-camera movies of the wheels. Pre-drive, mid-drive, and post-drive imaging was acquired. The 5.3-meter (17-foot) drive was successful, and Opportunity reached the outcrop. Slippage during the drive ranged from 3 to 12 percent.

Opportunity's total odometry as of sol 605 was 6,009.88 meters (3.73 miles).

Daily Update - 10/7/05
Spirit Preparing for Robotic Arm Work
Spirit Status for sol 620-626

Spirit is healthy and still performing science in the summit area of "Husband Hill." The rover has acquired a 360-degree panorama from the top of Husband Hill, and has performed remote sensing of other targets of interest. Spirit drove back down to the clean face of the rock outcrop called "Hillary" to find a good position to perform work with the robotic arm.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sol 620 to 622 (Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 2005): While perched on the summit of Husband Hill, Spirit spent the weekend acquiring a 360-degree color mosaic. Team members took this opportunity to place the Moessbauer spectrometer on Spirit's compositional calibration target for a three-sol integration.

The compositional calibration target provides an independent, external reference source for calibrating the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and Moessbauer spectrometer. Both instruments also have their own internal calibration reference targets. The compositional calibration target is made of a piece of magnetite rock from Earth, bonded to an aluminum base plate and covered by a protective coating that the Moessbauer spectrometer cannot detect.

The science team also wanted new measurements of the compositional calibration target with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer to supplement measurements from sols 614 to 619, but rover planners saw a rock under the rover. If the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer were on the compositional calibration target, the rock abrasion tool would be too close to this hazard. The resolution was to do only a Moessbauer spectrometer integration.

Sol 623: There is a fascinating outcrop at the summit called Hillary. From the panoramic camera position on top of the summit, Spirit could access only very dusty areas of Hillary. On sol 623, Spirit began the approach to the clean face. However, the drive did not take place due to a sequencing error.

Sol 624: The second approach attempt succeeded, with a 12-meter (39-foot) drive. From the new location, Spirit imaged potential workspace for the robotic arm. The images allowed rover planners to determine the best way to bump into position for robotic arm work.

Sol 625: A 3.4-meter (11.15-foot) bump put the desired target into the work space. However, the left front wheel is perched upon a small rock and not in full contact with the ground.

Sol 626: Since engineers could not tell if the rover was 100-percent stable, the team decided not to deploy the robotic arm. Instead, the plan is for Spirit to perform small maneuvers. The hazard-avoidance cameras will take images at every step to stabilize the rover and confirm that it is in a safe position to perform robotic arm work.

As of the end of sol 626, (Oct. 6, 2005), Spirit has driven 4,993 meters (3.10 miles).

Daily Update - 10/3/05
Slight Hiccup for Opportunity Before Getting to 'Erebus Crater'
Opportunity Status for sol 592-598

Opportunity suffered a warm reboot last week. After the flight computer rebooted, the spacecraft went into "safe mode." This error caused the team to miss two Odyssey passes. The evening pass was missed because the reboot occurred during the Odyssey pass. The morning pass was missed because safe mode enforces the deep sleep behavior.

Real-time commands were sent on sol 597 in order to access the state of the vehicle. Opportunity was healthy and the team regained control of the vehicle. A "lite" master sequence was loaded and sol 597 became a stand down day. On sol 598, the initial system recovery steps were taken and subsystems were tested. All subsystems look good.

This is the first time this fault has been seen on Opportunity. It was seen twice before on Spirit, in May and August of 2004. The decision at that time was to not fix the software bug that causes this problem, and accept the rare interruptions in operations. The bug is a window of vulnerability in the process of lifting memory write protects and replacing them. The bug allows a 51 microsecond window where another write request can interrupt the first request. When the writes collide, the software protects itself and the vehicle by terminating activities.

This week Opportunity will continue with nominal operations. The rover will continue to move west around Erebus Crater.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sol 592: Drove 1.75 meter (69 inches) and approached target "Deception" on the feature "South Shetland."

Sol 593: Unstowed the robotic arm, used rock abrasion tool brush, took a stereo microscopic image and then placed the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 594: Continued the robotic arm campaign. Placed the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, then changed tool to the Moessbauer spectrometer.

Sol 595: Continued the robotic arm campaign. Placed alpha particle X-ray spectrometer on new target then change tool to the Moessbauer spectrometer on the next sol.

Sol 596: Anomaly - warm reboot day.

Sol 597: Stand-down day.

Sol 598: Recovery day, subsystem testing.

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