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Daily Update - 2/28/05
Spirit Taking in 'Tennessee Valley'
Spirit Status for sol 402-407
Spirit has spent the last 70 sols climbing up the "Columbia Hills" to reach "Larry's Lookout," a point on "Cumberland Ridge." Having accomplished the trek up to Larry's Lookout, Spirit is getting into position to shoot a panorama of the "Tennessee Valley" located below. Spirit is still in excellent health.
Sols 401 and 402 were planned in a single planning cycle. On sol 401, Spirit placed the Moessbauer spectrometer on a target of disturbed soil called "Paso Robles" and collected data for most of sols 401 and 402. Spirit also performed about three hours of remote-sensing observations, including imaging of Phobos, one of the moons of Mars.
Sols 403 through 405 were planned in another single planning cycle, to allow the Earthlings to take President's Day holiday off. Sol 403 was spent continuing the very long Moessbauer spectrometer integration on Paso Robles. Spirit stowed the rover arm, and then moved back about a meter (3 feet) to allow imaging of Paso Robles with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and panoramic camera. Spirit then began moving closer to Larry's Lookout, covering 16 meters (52 feet). On sol 405, Spirit spent over two hours performing remote-sensing observations and recharging the batteries.
Spirit moved still closer to Larry's Lookout on sol 406, driving another 14 meters (46 feet) uphill. By the end of the drive, Spirit was within 5 meters (16 meters) of the crest. Spirit also performed another Phobos observation.
On sol 407, Spirit reached Larry's Lookout, driving another 3.5 meters (11 feet). Spirit performed an hour of post-drive imaging and was ready to begin observations of Tennessee Valley.
Total odometry as of sol 407 is 4,157 meters (2.58 miles).
Sol 407 ended on Feb. 24, 2005.
Daily Update - 2/24/05
Spirit's Intelligence Increasing
Spirit Status for sol 394-402
Spirit is getting new software for increased brainpower, but the rover is not using it quite yet.
On sol 394, Spirit drove to a safe spot for good communications with Earth during upload of new software. The rover team successfully loaded all of the new software modules on sol 395 and booted the spacecraft with the latest software on sol 397. At the end of sol 397, the rover team re-booted back into the old software. Opportunity (Spirit's sister) is running on the new software, and Spirit will start using it after the project team gets a chance to see the software's new capabilities in action.
On sol 398, Spirit continued climbing toward "Larry's Lookout" in the "Columbia Hills" with an 18-meter (59-foot) drive backward up the hill. During part of the drive, the rover slipped, and Spirit churned up some soil under the front right wheel. In the images taken after the drive, the rover team noticed some very bright spots in the soil.
On sol 399, Spirit placed the robotic arm down on the churned up soil and performed a quick reading of the soil's composition with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer. Spirit then stowed the robotic arm and continued the drive toward the summit. However, the attempted drive failed due to slippage, and Spirit ended up only churning up more soil. This turned out to be fortuitous because the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer reading the rover team received on sol 400 from the sol 399 integration showed interesting results. Because the team had only a quick alpha particle X-ray spectrometer reading the sol before, the rover team decided to dedicate sol 400 to doing a more extensive integration with the same instrument.
For sols 401 and 402, Spirit's instructions were to complete more observations of the soil at this location. Spirit changed tools to the Moessbauer spectrometer for collecting data with that instrument more than 12 hours each day. The plan actually ended in the early morning hours of sol 403. During the morning of sol 403, Spirit attempted to image Phobos (one of the moons of Mars) as it eclipsed the Sun. Sol 402 ended on Feb. 18, 2005.
Daily Update - 2/22/05
Opportunity Gets New Flight Software
Opportunity Status for sol 374-379
Opportunity received a software tuneup that should improve its mobility capabilities. With the new load on board, Opportunity booted into it and began an initial checkout. After a short test drive with promising results, there remains more checkout to do before blessing the load and having the rover's sister craft, Spirit, boot up the new software. Atmospheric opacity has been stable, with tau around 0.9. Solar power is still relatively plentiful and Opportunity continues to be in excellent health.
Sols 374 through 376 were used to load the files for the new flight software, so Opportunity did not move during this operation. There were a few hours of remote-sensing observations on sols 374 and 375. Opportunity successfully booted into the new flight software on sol 376.
Starting out slowly, Opportunity performed three hours of remote-sensing activities on sol 377.
Sol 378 was the first driving sol using the improved flight software. The drive employed various methods, such as blind driving, auto-navigation, and visual-odometry driving to exercise the rover's new software. Opportunity traversed approximately 25 meters (82 feet) this sol.
After completing the drive on sol 378, Opportunity had a very nice rock target just outside its front right wheel. On sol 379, Opportunity performed two hours of remote sensing and then turned to 170 degrees, putting the rock target "Russet" perfectly in the rover's work volume. Sol 379 ended on Feb. 16, with Opportunity's total odometry at 2,559.88 meters (1.59 miles).
Daily Update - 2/15/05
Spirit Braving the Dust on Mars
Spirit Status for sol 388-393
Spirit's solar panels are collecting a fine layer of dust, which has reduced energy levels, but Spirit keeps on keeping on.
Spirit completed an approximately 13-meter (43-foot) drive toward the "Cumberland Ridge" on sol 388. Spirit spent sol 389 performing the usual set of remote-sensing observations.
On sol 390, Spirit drove closer to "Larry's Lookout," about 13 meters (43 feet) backwards uphill. Spirit stopped when the rover reached the mobility time-of-day limit, which is a time of day that engineers program into the software to ensure the rover won't deplete all of its power at the end of a day's drive. Then, Spirit performed a set of remote sensing observations on sol 391.
Sol 392 was planned as a 23-meter (75-foot) drive toward Larry's Lookout, plus some post-drive imaging in the drive direction with the navigation camera and panoramic camera. The usual remote-sensing science was planned for various times throughout the sol. However, Spirit halted after completing the first segment of the drive, a distance of only about 12 meters (39 feet). The halt may have been due to rocks nearby considered too dangerous by the rover's autonomous navigation system. This left Spirit with more driving to do on the next drive opportunity. Spirit also has been taking energy from the batteries recently (due to increased dust in the atmosphere, which has covered the solar panels with a thin layer of dust, blocking some of the light that provides energy via the solar panels).
On sol 393, the rover team planned an easy remote-sensing day in order to try to put back some energy into the batteries.
The plan for sol 394 was to perform a careful drive of about 6.4 meters (21 feet) to park in a spot where the rover team can carry out an upload of new flight software. The spot was chosen for an orientation facilitating the high gain antenna to point to Earth for good communication during upload of the flight software. Sol 394 ended on Feb. 11.
As of sol 393, Spirit's total odometry is 4,108 meters (2.55 miles).
Daily Update - 2/11/05
Examining a Trench and Scuff
Opportunity Status for sol 367-373
Opportunity is in good health after more than a year on the martian surface. The rover completed its investigation of a trench and soil materials on sol 373 and is ready for a software patch, which will be uploaded over next few sols. There have been no recent dust storm events, and tau -- a measurement of atmospheric opacity -- has remained close to 0.9 for the past two weeks.
For sols 367 and 368, a two-sol plan focused on investigation of a trench that Spirit had dug with its wheels on sol 366. Opportunity awoke on sol 367 at about 7:30 a.m. local solar time after a night in the deep-sleep mode. It made some early-morning photometry measurements, then napped until the morning uplink window from 10:40 to 11:00 a.m. local solar time. After this, the rover acquired microscopic images of the trench wall, performed a short reading with the Moessbauer spectrometer, and then positioned the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer for data collection. After an afternoon communications relay session via Mars Odyssey, the rover slept until the sol 368 morning relay pass, at which time it started the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer integration. In the morning of sol 368, Opportunity acquired more photometry observations, gathered more microscopic images, performed another short Moessbauer integration, and then positioned the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer for an overnight integration.
On sol 369, Opportunity completed more trench investigations. It gathered additional microscopic images on new targets in the trench, completed another short data-collection session with the Moessbauer spectrometer, and placed the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer for another overnight integration.
On sol 370, the rover acquired more microscopic images, more Moessbauer data and a variety of remote-sensing observations before using the deep-sleep mode overnight.
On sol 371, after waking from deep sleep, Opportunity restarted the Moessbauer integration. The rover made remote-sensing observations during the middle of the day. Later, it gathered the last microscopic images on the trench, stowed its robotic arm and used its left front wheel to scuff the soil. Opportunity then bumped backwards to put the scuffed area into the arm's work volume.
On sol 372, Opportunity completed microscopic imaging of the scuffed area, collected Moessbauer data, and switched to the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer. The rover did not use the deep sleep mode overnight so that it could perform an overnight reading with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.
On sol 373, Opportunity completed the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer work and then changed tools back to the Moessbauer for more integration during the day. In the afternoon the rover acquired some final microscopic images of the scuff, used the hazard avoidance camera to inspect wear on the grinding teeth of the rock abrasion tool, and then stowed the arm. Opportunity then bumped back about 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) to position itself for observing the trench with the instruments on the mast. It turned to a heading of 250 degrees to be in good position for four hours of high-gain antenna tracking for receiving an upload of improved flight software. Sol 373 ended on Feb. 10.
Daily Update - 2/7/05
Spirit Encounters 'Alligator'
Spirit Status for sol 381-388
Spirit has completed examination of a rock target called "Alligator," using every tool on the instrument deployment device (robotic arm). With Spirit's batteries recharged and atmospheric dust stable again, the rover is in excellent health and ready to approach "Cumberland Ridge," a crest on "Husband Hill."
Having completed close-up observations of the rock named "Peace," Spirit stowed the robotic arm on sol 381, bumped back 1.2 meters (3.9 feet), imaged Peace, and then drove 17 meters (56 feet) toward the crest of Husband Hill. The amount of electric current drawn by the rear wheels rose higher than normal, most likely due to an 18-degree tilt during the drive. Spirit then performed 30 minutes of post-drive imaging.
On sol 382, Spirit made a 4-meter (13-foot) approach to the next target, informally named "Alligator." The drive succeeded as planned, putting Alligator perfectly in the workspace for rover-arm operations.
On sols 383 and 384, Spirit performed a couple hours of remote-sensing observations.
On sols 385 and 386, Spirit completed complicated rover-arm operations. During 80 minutes on sol 385, Spirit scoured some side-by-side patches of Alligator's surface with the wire bristles on the rover's rock abrasion tool, creating a brush mosaic. Spirit took readings with the Moessbauer spectrometer for 90 minutes, switched tools to the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer for 20 minutes of data-collection with that tool, then switched back to the Moessbauer spectrometer for more observations through 3:00 a.m. Mars local solar time on sol 386. Later on sol 386, Spirit took close-up pictures of the brush mosaic using the microscopic imager. Spirit then stowed the rover arm. The rover moved 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) back away from Alligator, and then performed an hour of post-drive imaging.
Sol 387, which ended on Feb. 3, was a restricted sol because information from the previous sol's operations could not be available in time for the team to plot further driving. So Spirit spent 2.5 hours performing remote-sensing observations using the panoramic camera and miniature thermal emission spectrometer.
Total odometry as of sol 357 is 4,070 meters (2.53 miles).
Daily Update - 2/4/05
Poking Around on the Plains
Opportunity Status for sol 360-366
Opportunity continues to be active and healthy, making good progress south across the Meridiani plains with a few hiccups along the way. Despite the early end of one autonomous traverse and a Deep Space Network problem that precluded sending commands on sol 364, the rover covered more than 300 meters (984 feet) in the past week, breaking its own one-sol distance records twice! Having scuffed and trenched in the sands of the plain, Opportunity is now examining the trench and nearby soil targets.
Since the Opportunity team was operating in restricted-sol mode, the team chose to plan sols 360 and 361 together as a drive sol followed by a remote-sensing sol. On sol 360, Opportunity traversed a record 154.65 meters (507.4 feet), using a combination of blind drives and auto-navigation software. On the next sol, Opportunity carried out three hours of remote-sensing observations.
Sols 362 and 363 were planned together as another two-sol plan, again with the basic intent of driving as far as possible. After a directed drive of 90 meters (295 feet), the rover turned 180 degrees and continued in auto-navigation mode, resulting in an impressive 156.55-meter (513.6-foot) traverse. That is a new record for a single sol of driving on Mars. Alternating the rover's drive direction is part of the engineering strategy for maintaining the long-term health of our wheel drives. For the second sol of the plan, Opportunity was commanded to continue driving for up to 120 meters (394 feet), as long as no drive errors had occurred on the first sol. However, due to a previously unidentified navigation software vulnerability, the sol 363 drive errored out at its start.
The plan for sol 364 was to continue the series of long traverses south. Unfortunately, there was a problem with a coolant line at a Deep Space Network transmitter, most of the pass was lost, and the plan could not be uplinked in the couple of minutes remaining. So, for what may have been the first time during Opportunity's mission, a sol's worth of nominal activities was lost, and the science run-out sequence from earlier commands was executed instead. Run-out sequences give the rover some useful tasks to do in case it does not get a new set of commands.
On sol 365, Opportunity used its panoramic camera and miniature thermal emission spectrometer to observe a target dubbed "Strange Rock," then moved a few meters (several feet) to get in position for trenching through a dune ripple crest.
For sol 366, rover planners worked very closely with the science team to choreograph a rover trenching dance: Opportunity moved, scuffed (dragging its front wheels backwards multiple times), and finally trenched in the sand, all while placing the rover in a good orientation for later communications. The rover then went into deep sleep in preparation for an early morning photometric observation. Sol 366 ended on Feb. 3.
Daily Update - 2/2/05
Spirit Productive with Peace Efforts
Spirit Status for sol 374-380
Spirit had another productive week in the locale of a target called "Peace." Because of strong interest in the unusual character of "Peace," the team decided to throw the full science instrument payload at the rock.
On sol 374, Spirit performed a successful 40-minute grind on Peace. The short grind time was due to energy limitations on the rover, which were a result of a dust storm that limited solar energy. The rock abrasion tool performed with no anomalies, and a 3.22- millimeter hole was made, removing some of the upper rock surface. Then, Spirit placed the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer in the hole drilled by the rock abrasion tool. The usual morning and evening remote-sensing science observations were conducted.
On sol 375, Spirit placed the Moessbauer spectrometer in the abraded hole. Again, the usual remote-sensing science observations were made.
On sol 376, Spirit continued the Moessbauer spectrometer integration, then Spirit changed tools to take pictures of the rock abrasion tool hole with the microscopic imager. Spirit performed more remote-sensing science.
On sol 377, Spirit completed a successful 1-hour-and-56-minute grind on Peace. This was the second attempt at grinding this rock target because the depth of first grind on sol 274 was deemed insufficient by the science team to really get inside the rock. The rock abrasion tool again performed the operation with no anomalies. It ground an additional 9.7 millimeters into the previously abraded surface. This additional depth did not necessarily add directly to the depth achieved on sol 374 due to potential rover arm placement errors, but it was the deepest rock abrasion tool hole created to date!
On sol 378, Spirit started the Moessbauer spectrometer reading at noon and integrated until 3:00 a.m. The usual atmospheric science was conducted.
On sol 379, Spirit restarted the Moessbauer spectrometer to get four hours of observations during the day, and an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer reading was taken overnight. Atmospheric science, miniature thermal emission spectrometer readings of "Boycott", and an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer reading were taken overnight.
On sol 380, the Science Operations Working Group (SOWG) decided that Spirit should remain at the location with "Peace." Spirit collected pictures of the deep rock abrasion tool hole with the microscopic imager. The microscopic imager images of the bottom of that hole were received on the ground. A short alpha particle X-ray spectrometer integration on a new "Peace" target was collected just before the Odyssey orbiter communications pass, and the data were sent down on that pass. A long alpha particle X-ray spectrometer integration (greater than eight hours) will come down later. Additional pictures of Peace from the microscopic imager were collected. The miniature thermal emission spectrometer monitored dust. The panoramic camera and hazard avoidance camera took images of the rock abrasion tool's magnets and grinding bit. The atmosphere has become slightly less dusty since the latest reporting. Sol 380 ended on Jan. 27.