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Daily Update - 10/16/06
Spirit Studies Layers of Volcanic Rock
Spirit Status for sol 982-987

As Spirit enters a period known as solar conjuction, when the sun interferes with transmissions between Mars and Earth, mission planners sent a complete set of plans for science activities during solar conjunction to Spirit on the rover's 982nd sol, or Martian day, of exploring inside Gusev Crater (Oct. 7, 2006). During that time, the rover will achieve a new milestone: exploring Mars for 1,000 consecutive days.

Solar conjunction will begin on sol 991 (Oct. 16, 2006) and end on sol 1015 (Nov. 10, 2006). During this period, both NASA rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, will not receive any new command loads, but they will send daily downlinks to Earth, averaging 15 megabits of data per transmission. The data will be relayed to Earth via NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft in orbit above Mars.

Each day during conjunction, Spirit will spend 3 hours analyzing dust collected on the rover's filter magnet using the Moessbauer spectrometer and 24 minutes conducting a variety of early morning science observations. The morning science activities are designed to monitor the atmosphere and to search for any possible surface changes. The workload will make optimum use of solar power levels available with the retreat of Martian winter.

Spirit is healthy and continues to make progress on the winter science campaign of experiments. The rover's solar energy levels continue to rise slowly. Solar power is currently about 300 watt-hours. One hundred watt-hours is the amount of electricity needed to light one 100-watt bulb for one hour.

Sol-by-sol summary

Sol 982 (Oct. 7, 2006): Spirit measured atmospheric dust opacity with the panoramic camera and surveyed the sky, ground, and dark soil in the rover's tracks using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. Spirit took panoramic camera images of the rover's tracks and analyzed rock targets known as "Gueslaga" and "Tor" with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. The rover measured the brightness of the morning sky in the west using the panoramic camera.

Sol 983: Spirit measured atmospheric dust opacity with the panoramic camera and surveyed the sky, ground, and dark soil in the rover's tracks using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. Spirit took a look at the elemental chemistry of the atmosphere with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer. The rover acquired super-resolution panoramic camera images of a target called "Mitcheltree Ridgecrest 11."

Sol 984: Spirit measured atmospheric dust opacity with the panoramic camera and surveyed the sky, ground, and soil in the rover's tracks using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. Spirit analyzed a rock target dubbed "O'Higgins" with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and referenced instrument measurements to the calibration target on the rover. The rover scanned the sky for clouds with the navigation camera, measured morning sky brightness with the panoramic camera, and monitored dust on the panoramic camera mast assembly.

Sol 985: Spirit measured atmospheric opacity using the panoramic camera, surveyed the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and restarted analysis of dust collected by the filter magnets using the Moessbauer spectrometer. Spirit scanned the sky for clouds using the navigation camera and acquired thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera.

Sol 986: Spirit measured atmospheric opacity using the panoramic camera, checked for drift (changes with time) in the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and surveyed the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. Spirit scanned the sky for clouds using the navigation camera and acquired thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera.

Sol 987 (Oct. 12, 2006): Spirit measured atmospheric dust opacity using the panoramic camera, checked for drift in the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and surveyed the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. The rover restarted Moessbauer analysis of dust on the filter magnets. Spirit surveyed the sky during high sun using the panoramic camera.

Odometry

As of sol 986 (Oct. 11, 2006), Spirit's total odometry remained at 6,876.18 meters (4.27 miles).

Daily Update - 10/16/06
On the Promontory
Opportunity Status for sol 954-960

Opportunity is healthy and perched at the tip of the promontory "Cape Verde," 3.1 meters (10.2 feet) from the edge of a sharp drop off on the rim of "Victoria Crater." Soon after arriving at Victoria Crater's "Duck Bay" last week, Opportunity was sent on its way to Cape Verde. Six sols, four drives and 127.61 meters (419 feet) later, Opportunity arrived at the rock target "Fogo" near the tip of Cape Verde.

Along the way, Opportunity made remote-sensing observations including a panorama from Duck Bay, imagery of Cape Verde and atmospheric science.

On Sol 957 (Oct. 3, 2006) Opportunity performed a coordinated observation with NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). MRO imagery included a picture of Opportunity itself! The image was taken with MRO's HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera, the highest-resolution camera ever to orbit Mars.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sol 954 (Sept. 30, 2006): The navigation camera had a look at the skies, searching for clouds. The panoramic camera gauged atmospheric clarity (a "tau" measurement). The panoramic camera was then used to take a mosaic image of "Duck Bay 2." The miniature thermal emission spectrometer was put to work to scan the target "Cape Verde Maio". The afternoon included another panoramic camera tau measurement.

Sol 955: The morning of this sol saw the panoramic camera imaging target Cape Verde Maio. The rover also assessed the clarity of the atmosphere. The robotic arm was then stowed and the rover drove 55.71 meters (183 feet) toward Cape Verde. After the drive, the rover took images with its hazard avoidance cameras, panoramic camera and navigation camera, and unstowed its arm.

Sol 956: In the morning, Opportunity used its panoramic camera to survey the sky. A measurement of atmospheric clarity was taken by the panoramic camera, and the navigation camera spied for clouds. More remote sensing was conducted before the Mars Odyssey communication window. During that window, the rover examined points in the sky and on the ground with its miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 957: The rover was busy this morning, using its navigation and panoramic cameras to survey the sky. The miniature thermal emission spectrometer was also used to scan the sky and ground. Opportunity assessed the clarity of the atmosphere with a tau measurement and then stowed its robotic arm. The rover drove 42.17 meters (138 feet) toward Cape Verde, took hazard avoidance camera images, then unstowed its arm and took navigation and panoramic camera images. A tau measurement was taken with the panoramic camera before an overflight by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. In coordination with observations by that orbiter, Opportunity's cameras were busy imaging and the miniature thermal emission spectrometer assessed the sky and ground. To end the sol, the panoramic camera made another tau measurement.

Sol 958: The rover monitored its dust level this morning and looked for clouds with its navigation camera. The miniature thermal emission spectrometer was then used to assess the sky and ground. A tau measurement was taken and then a 23.01 meter (75.5 feet) drive commenced, toward Cape Verde. The rover then did post-drive imaging. In coordination with observations by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Opportunity took another tau measurement and did albedo measurements.

Sol 959: On this sol, Opportunity began the day by scanning for clouds with its navigation camera and taking thumbnail images with its panoramic camera. A panoramic camera tau measurement was taken and then the rover drove 6.72 meters (22 feet) to the target Fogo at Cape Verde. Post-drive imaging was done and a tau measurement taken. During the communication window with Mars Odyssey, the miniature thermal emission spectrometer observed the sky and ground.

Sol 960 (Oct. 6, 2006): In the morning of this sol, the navigation camera looked for clouds and the miniature thermal emission spectrometer observed the sky and ground. Opportunity then took a tau measurement and used the miniature thermal emission spectrometer to assess dunes, the sky and the ground. Another panoramic camera tau measurement was taken. During the communication window with Mars Odyssey, the miniature thermal emission spectrometer was used again to assess the dunes.

As of sol 959 (Oct. 5, 2006), Opportunity's total odometery was 9,406.95 meters (5.85 miles).

Daily Update - 10/13/06
Spirit Studies Layers of Volcanic Rock
Spirit Status for sol 977-981

Spirit is healthy and continues to make progress on a winter science campaign of experiments.

In parallel with normal planning, a special team has been developing plans to be executed during solar conjunction, when the sun obscures the line of sight between Earth and Mars and severely limits radio communication. Rover handlers will upload the plans to be executed by Spirit during solar conjunction prior to the beginning of conjunction. This year's solar conjunction period begins on the rover's 991st Martian day, or sol, (Oct. 16, 2006) and ends on sol 1005 (Oct. 30, 2006). Planning for future activities on sols 1006 and 1007 (Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, 2006) will resume Oct. 30.

Spirit continued to produce atmospheric profiles of dust, temperature at different heights, ice, and water vapor, as well as surface and sub-surface temperatures using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. Plans also called for a scan of the sky for clouds, which, if found, could be incorporated into a multi-frame movie for observing cloud movement.

Spirit acquired super-resolution panoramic camera images of volcanic outcrops called "Marambio," "Jubany," and "Mitcheltree Ridge" on sols 979 and 981 (Oct. 4 and Oct. 6, 2006). The outcrops consist of basalt, a dense, dark rock that hardens from lava and often has a glassy appearance. These basalts were also vesicular, meaning they are porous because there were gas bubbles in the lava when it solidified.

The purpose of the super-resolution imaging campaign is to identify and map characteristics of the local geology. In particular, scientists hope to determine the relative stratigraphy of Mitcheltree Ridge, "Low Ridge," and the raised, circular plateau known as "Home Plate." Stratigraphy is the study of rock layers.

Spirit's solar energy levels continued to rise, ending the week at around 300 watt-hours. One hundred watt-hours is the amount of electricity needed to light one 100-watt bulb for one hour.

Sol-by-sol summary

Sol 977 (Oct. 2, 2006): Spirit measured atmospheric opacity using the panoramic camera, surveyed the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, used the Moessbauer spectrometer to analyze dust collected by the filter magnets, acquired panoramic camera images of the work volume accessible by the robotic arm, and collected images of the rover's tracks with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 978: Spirit measured atmospheric opacity using the panoramic camera, surveyed the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and collected thermal data from targets known as "Casey Station" and "Sobral." The rover acquired super-resolution images of volcanic rock outcrops called Marambio and Jubany and measured morning sky brightness in the west with the panoramic camera.

Sol 979: Spirit measured atmospheric dust opacity using the panoramic camera, surveyed the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and restarted integration of data from the Moessbauer spectrometer's inspection of dust on the filter magnets. In addition, Spirit acquired morning images of the dune field known as "El Dorado" as well as images of the Martian horizon using the panoramic camera, measured morning sky brightness in the west with the panoramic camera, and scanned the sky for clouds using the navigation camera.

Sol 980: Spirit measured atmospheric dust opacity using the panoramic camera, surveyed the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, surveyed the sky with the panoramic camera, and acquired super-resolution images of Mitcheltree Ridge with the panoramic camera.

Sol 981 (Oct. 6, 2006): Spirit measured atmospheric dust opacity using the panoramic camera, surveyed the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, restarted integration of data from the filter magnets with the Moessbauer spectrometer, and acquired super-resolution panoramic camera images of the soil target known as "Tyrone."

Odometry

As of sol 981 (Oct. 6, 2006), Spirit's total odometry remained at 6,876.18 meters (4.27 miles).

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