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Daily Update - 3/31/05
Opportunity Continues to Set Martian Records
Opportunity Status for sol 408-414
This is the martian rover that keeps going and going and going. This week Opportunity continued to move on, performing panoramic camera soil surveys and imaging the lay of the land as it progressed southward toward craters called "Viking" and "Voyager." On sol 408, Opportunity again broke the martian one-day driving record, traveling an impressive 190 meters (623 feet) in a single sol. However, this record did not stand very long. The rover surpassed it on sol 410 (March 20, 2005) and set the new record of 220 meters (722 feet). The rover is healthy and ready to take on yet another week of exploration.
Continuing south, Opportunity broke a Mars driving-distance record. This time the rover made its way 190 meters (623 feet) toward "Viking" and "Voyager" craters. On this sol, the rover was able to image a small crater called "James Caird." The crater was informally named for the financier of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance expedition. The rover imaged features on the ground, and then the team compared them to features taken by orbiting spacecraft. This technique allows us to pinpoint the location of the rover on Mars.
Today Opportunity needed a rest. The rover has been driving long and hard since sol 405. In fact it has driven roughly 630 meters (2,067 feet - well over a quarter of a mile) in just 4 sols, and it's time to sit out a day, make some observations, recharge the batteries and clear out some of the memory by sending data back to Earth.
Yestersol's rest day was just what the doctor ordered. The rover woke up ready to go, and boy did it go! Today the rover set a new (and likely long-standing) driving record of 220 meters (722 feet). This incredible vehicle navigated more than half of that drive by itself!
After yestersol's marathon race, Opportunity took the day off to rest.
Opportunity is all about the driving these days: on sol 412, 183 meters (600 feet); on sol 413, 175 meters (574 feet); on sol 414, 183 meters (600 feet). From sol 405 to sol 414 (just ten sols) Opportunity has traveled 1.394 kilometers (4,573 feet, approaching a mile). This is almost 30 percent of all the driving that Opportunity has done in its 414-sol career!
The odometer total as of sol 414 (March 24, 2005) is 4.806 kilometers (just shy of three miles).
Daily Update - 3/30/05
Opportunity Status for sol 403-407
This week Opportunity's engineering and science teams got some good news and some bad news. Unfavorable results were obtained when the engineering team ran some diagnostic observations on the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. Very few of the readings obtained during these test were of nominal length; most were short. The team has decided to suspend the use of this spectrometer until further analysis can be performed. On the good side, the rover continues to make progress southward toward its next goal, a pair of craters referred to as "Viking" and "Voyager." Also, Opportunity has set a martian single sol drive-distance record of 183 meters (just over 600 feet)!
Sol 403 (March 12, 2005):
This sol, the rover used its microscopic imager to take pictures of a rock called "Gagarin," changed tools to the Moessbauer spectrometer, and placed it on rock-interior material exposed by the rock abrasion tool. The rover did not use the deep-sleep mode this night.
Opportunity woke and resumed collecting Moessbauer data until a little before midnight. During the day, it was able to perform some remote sensing. Around midnight the rover went into a mini deep sleep.
The spacecraft woke up this morning and continued to acquire data on Gagarin using the Moessbauer spectrometer. This sol the team tested the miniature thermal emission spectrometer to look at short readings the instrument has been making. Opportunity then bumped back from the crater and drove 100 meters (328 feet). After a long day, the rover used deep sleep overnight.
Opportunity, guided by its rover planners, took an hour to drive 100 meters (328 feet). The rover then took control and used autonomous navigation to drive the next 83 meters (272 feet), setting a new one-sol driving record of 183 meters (600 feet)!
This sol was another drive day. The rover drove 100 meters (328 feet) guided by rover planners and then 60 meters (197 feet) autonomously. Odometry total as of sol 407 (March 16, 2005) is 3,856 meters (2.4 miles).
Daily Update - 3/28/05
Using Extra Energy to Head Uphill
Spirit Status for sol 430-435
After a very busy weekend, Spirit packed up the robotic arm and headed away from an area dubbed "Paso Robles." Spirit should be able to make good progress towards the "Husband Hill" summit in the upcoming sols, using as much of the abundant solar energy as it can. Extra power comes courtesy of an early-March windstorm that blew off year-old dust from Spirit's electricity-producing solar panels.
On sol 430 (March 19, 2005), Spirit took readings of a soil target called "Paso Dark" with the Moessbauer spectrometer, made atmospheric-science observations, shot targeted panoramic camera images and collected miniature thermal emission spectrometer readings. Then the rover performed an overnight alpha particle X-ray spectrometer reading on an area of soil that had a mix of light and dark colors.
On sol 431, Spirit took pictures of the solar panel, some undisturbed soil, and Paso Dark with the microscopic imager. Spirit also took another short reading of Paso Dark using the Moessbauer spectrometer before stowing the robotic arm. The rover then made a short drive backwards to get in good position for taking images of the area where it had used the instruments on the robotic arm. After taking those images, Spirit resumed its drive toward the summit of Husband Hill, rolling a total of 10 meters (33 feet) for the day. Then it took images from its new location.
On sol 432, Spirit took panoramic camera images of its own deck for a little self portrait and made atmospheric-science observations.
On sol 433, Spirit continued with atmospheric readings, took panoramic camera images of its magnets, and searched for dust devils.
On sol 434, Spirit drove 20 meters (66 feet), did post-drive imaging, and took atmospheric readings.
On sol 435, Spirit did more atmospheric readings and a survey of the ground. As of sol 435 (March 24, 2005), Spirit has driven a total of 4,197.5 meters (2.61 miles).
Daily Update - 3/21/05
Busy with the Robotic Arm
Spirit Status for sol 422-429
After some accumulated dust was blown off of Spirit's solar panels on sol 420 (March 9, 2005), the rover has been producing over 800 watt-hours of energy per sol, about twice as much as before the solar-array cleaning event. All that extra power has allowed Spirit to do a very aggressive scientific campaign at a soil patch dubbed "Paso Robles 2" with the instruments on the robotic arm. The rover team planned to wrap up the robotic arm work and send Spirit driving again on sol 431.
Between sols 416 and 418, the front hazard-avoidance cameras showed signs of dust contamination. Images from sol 420 indicate that the left front hazard-avoidance camera has been mostly cleaned off.
On sol 421, Spirit drove and took images that caught a dust devil in action!
On sols 422 and 423, Spirit collected atmospheric-science and other remote-sensing observations. Spirit also performed a dust calibration with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.
On sol 424, Spirit drove to "Paso Robles2" and scuffed the surface with its wheels.
On sols 425 and 426, Spirit made some remote-sensing observations. On sol 426, Spirit also used the microscopic imager to take pictures of "Big Clod" and "Bitty Clod." Spirit also studied a target informally called "Paso Dark" with the Moessbauer spectrometer and a target called "Paso Light" with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.
On sol 427, Spirit used the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and the Moessbauer spectrometer again on Paso Dark. Spirit also took pictures of Paso Light and Paso Dark with the microscopic imager.
On sol 428, Spirit did targeted remote sensing and placed the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer on "Ben's Clod" and the Moessbauer spectrometer on Paso Light.
On sol 429 (March 18, 2005), Spirit swept the surface of Ben's Clod with the brush of the rock abrasion tool and took before-and-after shots of the area with the microscopic imager. Spirit also completed a short Moessbauer spectrometer reading on Paso Dark and an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer reading on Ben's Clod.
Daily Update - 3/16/05
Opportunity Arrives at 'Vostok'
Opportunity Status for sol 396-402
After a long, sustained series of traverses (with a few stops along the way to see the sights) Opportunity has reached "Vostok Crater." The rover began a set of in-situ measurements on the soil and rock of Vostok. The miniature thermal emission spectrometer instrument seems to be showing some symptoms of its age, resulting in some failed images; diagnostic observations using the instrument will be performed shortly. Opportunity otherwise continues to be in excellent health.
Sols 396 and 397 (March 5 and 6) were designed as a two-sol plan, with two sols of driving toward Vostok. The intent was to cover about 130 meters (427 feet) through combined directed-drive segments and autonomous-navigation segments on sol 396, followed by another 60-meter (197-foot) autonomous-navigation drive on sol 397. However, due to a partially misdefined waypoint (correct coordinates, but with too small a radius) on the first sol, Opportunity drove farther in its directed drive than intended. A safety timeout was triggered, and no driving took place on sol 397. The issue was quickly analyzed and fully understood by the mobility team and the rover planners, so nominal traverse planning resumed on sol 398.
In the meantime, the miniature thermal emission spectrometer failed some command executions, and a command was uplinked on sol 396 to prevent further use of this instrument until diagnostic testing is completed.
Sol 398 was primarily a drive sol, with Opportunity covering 95 meters (312 feet) via a combination of directed drives and autonomous navigation.
At the end of a 35-meter (115-foot) traverse, Opportunity finally reached Vostok during sol 399. The crater is almost completely buried in sand.
On sol 400, thanks to fortuitous positioning of the rover, in-situ targets were already in the work volume of the robotic arm, eliminating the need for an approach sol. Opportunity proceeded to examine a soil target, "Laika," and a rock, "Gagarin," with its microscopic imager, then positioned the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer for later measurements on Gagarin. After taking a panoramic image of Vostok, the rover took a long nap, waking up for its afternoon downlink and to begin taking data with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer. Opportunity awoke again before midnight to stop the integration, and then went into the deep-sleep mode until morning.
Since the plan called for Opportunity to continue in-situ measurements, the team chose to combine sols 401 and 402 as a two-sol plan. For sol 401, the plan is to use the brush of the rock abrasion tool brush on Gagarin and capture a microscopic imager mosaic afterwards. This will be followed by an evening alpha particle X-ray spectrometer measurement of the brushed surface, and then by a mini-deep sleep. On sol 402, ending on March 11, the rover will grind Gagarin for two hours with the rock abrasion tool, then perform an early morning alpha particle X-ray spectrometer integration on the resulting hole.
Daily Update - 3/15/05
Examining a Little Crater Before Moving on Toward 'Vostok'
Opportunity Status for sol 389-395
The rover took some time away from driving and explored a little crater it approached last week. Once Opportunity is done with the crater, plans call for continuing toward a larger crater, "Vostok." With its front legs just on the lip of the small crater, Opportunity was able to extend its robotic arm to characterize some of the mineralogy found here.
The last previous drive left Opportunity in a position where it could make its final approach to the lip of one of the craters in a cluster of three small craters. On sol 389 (Feb. 26, 2005) the rover took images of the site with its panoramic camera and its miniature thermal emission spectrometer. On sol 390, Opportunity took a panoramic camera mosaic of the crater, then bumped forward to the edge of the crater. Sol 391 was another day of remote-sensing science and rest.
For sol 392, the team decided to take an in situ look at a rock target called "Normandy." The Moessbauer spectrometer was placed on the rock and it conducted a three-hour long integration. Then the rover switched to the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and performed a very short (10-minute) measurement. The science team needed a sample reading, and by using this technique, the engineering team was able to give the scientists some idea of what they had in time for a communication window with Mars Odyssey. The science team used this data to determine if sol 393 would be a grinding day (with the rock abrasion tool). After getting the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer reading, the rover went to sleep, woke up at about 4:00 a.m. local solar time and started collecting data again with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer. The instrument ran for about 6 hours.
On sol 393, the rover switched back to the Moessbauer spectrometer and started a very long (about 12-hour) integration. The rover was able to use the mini-deep-sleep mode after the integration.
Plans for sols 394 and 395, uplinked on March 3, call for the rover to stow its robotic arm and back away from the crater on sol 394. At this point the rover will take some remote-sensing images. After confirmation that these important images have been acquired, Opportunity will turn and drive toward Vostok.
Daily Update - 3/13/05
High Winds Make Spirit Full of Energy
Spirit Status for sol 416-421
Spirit is in good health and is successfully using a new version of flight software. After completing an investigation of a rock dubbed "Watchtower," Spirit is returning to a soil area of interest informally labeled "Paso Robles." Tau, a measure of how much sunlight cannot penetrate the atmosphere, rose to a high of 1.5 on the afternoon of sol 418, but the opacity of the atmosphere has since dropped off. Energy output from Spirit's solar panels is up as of sol 420, indicating that some cleaning of dust off of the solar arrays may have occurred naturally.
As Spirit and Opportunity are the first solar-powered vehicles on the surface of Mars during the dust storm season, this is a learning experience. There are likely large transient dust storm events that reduce solar energy due to dust deposition on the solar arrays and blocking some sunshine, but also may sometimes raise energy levels by cleaning dust from arrays, possibly by winds associated with dust storms. The impact on other rover systems, such as cameras, will also be closely monitored.
On sol 416, which ended on March 5, 2005, Spirit awoke around 4 a.m. local solar time at Gusev Crater to start its alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and use a communication window with the Mars Odyssey orbiter passing overhead. Later, Spirit did a three-hour grind with its rock abrasion tool, digging about 7 millimeters (0.27 inch) into Watchtower. Spirit then placed the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer into the rock abrasion tool hole for an overnight integration.
On sol 417, Spirit gathered images of the rock abrasion tool hole with the microscopic imager, performed a variety of remote-sensing observations, and then placed the Moessbauer spectrometer in the hole for an overnight integration.
On sol 418, Spirit continued the Moessbauer spectrometer integration and acquired remote-sensing data. A regional dust storm caused tau the reach a new high if 1.5 in the afternoon and reduced solar energy for the day to roughly 350 watt-hours. After the dust storm, Spirit's front hazard-avoidance camera showed signs of dust contamination similar to that seen earlier on Opportunity's rear hazard-avoidance camera.
On sol 419, Spirit completed remote-sensing observations, including imaging to learn more about the contamination on the front hazard-avoidance camera. Slight mottling is visible in images from both eyes of the stereo camera. It is not enough to affect use of the camera or to have any direct impact on rover operations, but understanding how it happened might help the rover team minimize future occurrences. Spirit then moved backwards about 1 meter (3 feet) from Watchtower to use mast-mounted instruments for observing that rock. After that, it starting to drive toward the soil target Paso Robles. However, the planned 14-meter (46-foot) drive ended after just 1 meter (3 feet) due to a software sequence ordering issue.
On sol 420, Spirit drove 7 meters (23 feet) of a planned 14 meters (46 feet) towards Paso Robles. The drive ended prematurely due to a problem in visual odometry, which is part of the software that enables the rover to drive autonomously. Energy output from the solar array rose dramatically, to more than 600 watt-hours. In part, this is due to a favorable northerly tilt of the rover, which points the solar arrays toward the Sun. Also, tau is going back down, but it is possible that some cleaning event occurred that reduced the dust on the solar panels.
On sol 421, Spirit drove 7 meters (23 feet) and arrived close to the Paso Robles target. Spirit still needs another few meters to get into position to use the instruments on its robotic arm. Solar energy continues to be very high: more than 700 watt-hours. The last time Spirit had this much energy was around sol 80!
Daily Update - 3/7/05
Opportunity Continues South with New Mobility Software
Opportunity Status for sol 380-388
After a busy week of driving with new mobility software, Opportunity continues to be in excellent health. The rover has traveled 450 meters (just over a quarter of a mile) in 6 sols. Opportunity took a couple of breaks from the trek south to use the tools on its robotic arm for investigating of a rock called "Russet" and to image a crater triplet. Atmospheric opacity has been stable, with tau hovering between 0.85 and 0.90.
On sol 380, Opportunity placed its Moessbauer spectrometer on Russet for a five-hour integration, with remote sensing in parallel. The rover then switched to the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer for an eight-hour overnight integration.
On sol 381 Opportunity took one microscopic image of Russet, stowed the arm and bumped back for some remote sensing of the same target, then went for an approximately 60-meter (197-foot) drive to the crater "Jason."
Sol 382 was the second sol of a two-sol plan. Opportunity performed two hours of remote sensing.
The plan for sols 383 through 385 contained a first-time activity: to drive on all three sols over the weekend. On sol 383 there was a record-breaking 105-meter (344-foot) blind drive, in which the rover follows a route determined in advance by rover planners, followed by 72 meters (236 feet) of autonomous navigation, in which the rover chooses its own route around any obstacles it recognizes in images taken along the way. Sol 384 continued with 104 meters (341 feet) of autonomous navigation. Finally, Sol 385 completed the plan with an additional 109 meters (358 feet) of autonomously.
Autonomous navigation collects 15 megabytes to 25 megabytes of data per hour by imaging the passing terrain. (This would allow mobility engineers to reconstruct what happened if the drive faulted out.) As a result, flash memory was filled almost to the brim on sol 385, and sol 386 added only 6 megabytes of science data (all atmospheric science).
On sol 387, with a bit more free data volume to work with, and the team planned an approximately 80-meter (262-foot) drive to end up at a group of three small craters. The team also told Opportunity to use its navigation camera after the drive to take images for providing a 360-degree panorama of the craters.
The plan for sol 388, ending on Feb. 25, is to repeat the 6-megabyte atmospheric-science observations.
Current odometry total: 3014.77 meters (1.87 miles)
Daily Update - 3/4/05
Spirit Perched at 'Larry's Lookout'
Spirit Status for sol 408-415
Spirit's focus on sols 408 through 412 was the spectacular panorama from "Larry's Lookout." After completing that 4-sol effort, Spirit rolled to a nearby rock target called "Watchtower" and began examining it with tools on the robotic arm.
Spirit is in excellent health. Skies are clearing of dust and Spirit's solar panels are angled at a high northerly-tilt. So, as Mars approaches the spring season, Spirit has had ample power and a full battery at the start of each recent sol. Flash memory is also in good shape despite the large panorama acquired, thanks to good downlinks and data management.
On sol 408, Spirit was unable to uplink due to a communications transmitter failure.
Sol 409 was a repeat plan of sol 408, and Spirit drove 2.7 meters (8.9 feet) to Larry's Lookout.
Sols 410 and 411 were the first of four days of using the panoramic camera to acquire frames for a panorama from Larry's Lookout.
On sols 412 and 413, Spirit continued acquiring the panorama and also made observations with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.
On sol 414, Spirit moved slightly to put Watchtower into the work volume for the robotic arm.
On sol 415, Spirit brushed the dust off of an area on Watchtower with the rock abrasion tool and started an overnight integration with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.
Sol 415 ended on March 4, 2005.
Spirit's current total odometry is 4,161 meters (2.59 miles).