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Daily Update - 4/29/05
Digging into Dunes
Opportunity Status for sol 443-446
Opportunity used the spectrometers on its arm to examine the soil where the rover stayed for six sols, then resumed driving on sol 446. However, the drive ended after 40 meters when Opportunity was crossing a dune and dug into it. Engineers are using a test rover to evaluate options for getting off the dune.
Sol 443 (ending on April 23, 2005):
IDD campaign! We started off by unstowing the instrument deployment device -- the robotic arm -- and performing a joint stare of the sky using the microscopic imager and panoramic camera. We then changed tools to the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and collected data for 5 hours and 41 minutes about the composition of the soil in front of the rover.
Opportunity deep-slept overnight, and woke up to perform a sky survey while the Sun was high in the sky. We then changed tools to the Moessbauer spectrometer and started a 31-hour integration on the soil.
In order to keep the Moessbauer integration running, the rover did not use the deep-sleep mode overnight. Today was devoted to continued Moessbauer integration on the soil. At last, we stopped the Moessbauer integration at 11:12 p.m. local time and Opportunity deep-slept for the rest of the night.
We planned a drive of about 90 meters (295 feet). After driving about 40 meters (131 feet), Opportunity dug into soft dune material, impeding further progress. Imaging indicates all four corner wheels have dug in by more than a wheel radius as the rover attempted to climb over a dune about 30 centimeters (12 inches) tall. Opportunity is healthy and in a stable configuration but further analysis is needed to understand this event and plan future driving. Over next several sols, Opportunity will focus on remote sensing while on Earth a series of testbed runs are in progress to simulate terrain interaction and evaluate different egress options.
As of sol 446 (ending on April 26, 2005), Opportunity's odometry total is 5,346 meters (3.32 miles).
Daily Update - 4/27/05
Opportunity Status for sol 438-442
Opportunity keeps driving southward and studying new locations despite a disabled right-front steering motor. Opportunity has driven about 110 meters (361 feet) without use of that motor. The miniature thermal emission spectrometer began returning good data again. That instrument was in use when the rover stopped operating for a software reset on sol 440. The rover continues making scientific observations while engineers diagnose the cause of the reset.
Sol 438 (April 17, 2005):
Opportunity made remote-sensing observations.
Opportunity performed a 13-filter panoramic camera observation to study soil in a trench that was scooped by a wheel when the rover turned to a good communications orientation after its sol 437 drive. Opportunity followed the camera observations with an 80-meter (262-foot) drive south.
The team's plan was for Opportunity to make remote-sensing observations and then drive farther south. Panoramic camera imaging and some miniature thermal emission spectrometer observations were successfully completed. A miniature thermal emission spectrometer observation was underway when a software reset occurred at approximately 12:45 Mars local solar time.
The team prepared a recovery plan responding to the software reset the sol before. The plan included transmission of data acquired prior to and during the sol 440 event. Some of this data was returned during a downlink through the Odyssey orbiter on sol 441. Additional data were requested for transmission on sol 442 in hopes of pinpointing the cause of the software reset. Opportunity is otherwise healthy.
The team told Opportunity to perform remote science and study the surface at its present location while the engineering evaluation continued.
As of sol 442 (April 22, 2005) Opportunity's odometry total is 5,306 meters (3.30 miles).
Daily Update - 4/21/05
Spirit Drives to 'Methuselah'
Spirit Status for sol 456-462
Spirit has had a great week. The rover has completed some soil studies, taken lots of images, done a little driving, and captured a dust devil image with its panoramic camera. Late in the week, Spirit drove over to a piece of outcrop called "Methuselah." Spirit is healthy and doing fine!
Sol 456 (April 15, 2005):
Spirit drove toward a soil target to perform a maneuver that engineers and scientists call a "scuff." To scuff the soil, Spirit rotates and backspins one of its front wheels, creating a very shallow trench.
Sol 457, 458, 459:
The scuffmark that Spirit created gave the science team a chance to do some soil studies. Spirit used its full complement of science instruments over the weekend (April 16 and 17, 2005) to learn about the soil.
Spirit took some additional images of the scuff with the microscopic imager, and then drove toward a piece of outcrop in the neighborhood, which attracted the eye of science team. The science team thinks the outcrop is pretty old and has given it the informal name Methuselah.
Using the panoramic camera, Spirit captured an image of a dust devil passing by.
Sol 462 (April 21, 2005):
The plan is for Spirit to drive about 4 meters (13 feet) closer to Methuselah in order to be in position for an extended imaging campaign during the weekend.
Daily Update - 4/19/05
Spirit Gets Through a Rough Week
Spirit Status for sol 449-456
Talk about a rough week! Spirit experienced a few software glitches, command sequencing errors, and particularly tough terrain from April 8 through April 15, 2005. After problems were solved, the rover picked up and continued exploring the "Columbia Hills."
Sol 449 (April 8, 2005):
Spirit has been attempting to climb steep and rock-strewn slopes in the Columbia Hills. The rover automatically went into safe mode when the flight software rebooted on sol 449. Spirit then waited to get commands from engineers back on Earth.
An overlooked condition caused more headaches for the beloved Spirit. When the software rebooted on Sol 449, Spirit lost knowledge of where its high-gain antenna was pointed. When Spirit tried to use the antenna during sol 450's uplink without knowing where it was pointed, a fault condition resulted. Since Spirit could not figure out where to point the antenna, the rover missed the uplink for the day.
In order to get out of the fault condition, the rover uplink team came in on the weekend, and put the spacecraft into safe mode, a status in which only systems vital to the rover's health operate. The team commanded Spirit out of the high-gain antenna pointing error and left Spirit in auto mode. Auto mode occurs when the spacecraft is not running instructions from the Earth, but rather is taking care of itself.
Because Spirit was in auto mode, with no sequence of commands running, Spirit just relaxed and took care of itself on sol 452.
Before Spirit could drive, the rover needed to take fresh images of the surrounding terrain. Sol 453 was spent taking these images in preparation for driving on sol 454.
Spirit made another attempt to drive uphill. The drive did not go very well. Spirit slipped quite a bit. Engineers and scientists decided to try a different tactic for Spirit to climb this hill.
Rover team scientists and engineers decided that they had tried long enough to coax Spirit up this hill at this location and that it was time to try another approach. Instead of going up, Spirit would go down and cross the slope a bit. They will send Spirit cross slope until an easier path to the summit is identified.
Sol 456 (April 15, 2005):
This sol's plan consists of a small drive forward to a soil target where Spirit will use its front wheels to churn up a bit of Mars. The plan is to then examine this soil with instruments on the robotic arm.
Daily Update - 4/18/05
Steering Tests After a Long Drive
Opportunity Status for sol 430-437
The terrain that Opportunity is crossing has been steadily getting more wavy. After a long drive southward from "Voyager" crater, Opportunity's right-front steering motor stalled out on sol 433 during an end-of-drive turn. While performing tests to help the team diagnose the condition of that motor, the rover also continued to make remote-sensing observations. Testing in sol 435 did show motion in the steering motor, but analysis is still underway. The rover resumed normal science and driving operations on sol 436, but with restrictions on use of the right-front steering motor. It drove 30 meters on sol 437. Opportunity and Spirit are capable of driving with one or more steering motors disabled, though turns would be less precise. The latest revision in flight software on both rovers, uploaded in February, gives them improved capabilities for dealing with exactly this type of condition. It gives them upgraded ability to repeatedly evaluate how well they are following the intended course during a drive, and to adjust the steering autonomously if appropriate.
Sols 430-432 (April 9-11, 2005):
The weekend plan scheduled Opportunity to do some remote-sensing science on sol 430, a drive on sol 431 and more remote sensing on sol 432. However, the drive did not happen, due to a sequencing error that left the rover suspension limit active when it should not have been.
Opportunity drove 151 meters (495 feet) on its continued trek southward. During a turn at the end of the drive, the steering motor (not the drive motor) faulted out.
The rover completed some remote-sensing observations. Then it backed up 85 centimeters (33 inches) to see if the right-front wheel had bumped up against anything to cause the steering-motor stall. No rock or other obstacle was there. During the first attempt to straighten the wheels after backing up, the right-front steering motor stalled again. The wheel remained pointed about 8 degrees left of straight ahead.
The sol's plan included more remote sensing, plus diagnostic tests using attempts to change the steering direction of the right-front wheel very slightly at different times of day and at different voltage levels. The testing did show motion in the steering motor. While analysis continues, the rover is resuming normal science and driving activities with restrictions on the use of the right-front steering motor.
Opportunity used the panoramic camera for some ground and sky observations, and continued testing of the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.
The team planned a southward drive of about 45 meters, but Opportunity curved left, sensed it was off course, and ended the drive after 30 meters. The same driving commands produced the same results in a software testbed at JPL, indicating that the curving resulted from how software parameters were set, rather than a hardware problem. Observations with the panoramic camera were completed as planned.
Odometry total as of sol 437 (April 16, 2005): 5,225 meters (3.25 miles).
Daily Update - 4/12/05
Opportunity visits 'Viking' and 'Voyager' craters.
Opportunity Status for sol 421-429
Opportunity drove to "Viking Crater," then continued to "Voyager Crater." The rover took panoramas of each crater. While this was happening on the surface, the Mars Odyssey orbiter had gone into safe mode. Relay operations were suspended. With no post-drive imaging from the weekend, and very little data volume available in flash, Opportunity executed a few sols of low-volume remote sensing. Driving resumed on sol 428 with data downlinked via the direct-to-Earth link. With the exception of the miniature thermal emission spectrometer (analysis is still in progress), Opportunity is in excellent health.
Sol 421 (March 31, 2005): Opportunity stowed its robotic arm (instrument deployment device) and drove 71.2 meters (234 feet) to Viking Crater.
Sol 422: On this restricted sol, only remote sensing was conducted. A panoramic camera mosaic of Viking Crater was acquired.
Sol 423: Opportunity drove 109.2 meters (358 feet) to Voyager Crater.
Sol 424: The rover used autonomous navigation to drive south 2.6 meters (about 9 feet). The drive ended early because the tilt limit of 12 degrees was reached, with Opportunity perched on the rim of Voyager Crater.
Sol 425: Before this remote-sensing-only plan kicked off, the rover team learned that its main communication link, Mars Odyssey, had gone into safe mode and the latest data available was from the afternoon of sol 422. On April 2, Odyssey entered "safe mode," which is a protective state a spacecraft automatically enters when onboard fault protection software instructs the spacecraft to disregard its onboard sequence of commands and wait for instructions from the ground. As a result, relay communication with the rovers was suspended. The rover team was able to add a direct-to-Earth session to the plan, which confirmed that Opportunity was healthy.
Sol 426: After a 90-minute direct-to-Earth pass, Opportunity performed a small amount of remote sensing. Operations were restricted because post-drive imaging had not yet been transmitted to Earth, and the team wanted to save the small amount of volume in flash memory for an eventual drive.
Sol 427: Still operating in restricted mode, Opportunity again collected a small amount of remote-sensing data. It used the panoramic camera to assess the clarity of the atmosphere, tested the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and took a reading of air with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer. A 90-minute direct-to-Earth pass during the day returned data for future planning. The Odyssey team brought the orbiter back on-line, and the Opportunity team received 50 megabits of data. The Odyssey team is investigating the cause behind the fault protection software sending the orbiter into safe mode.
Sol 428: The sol 427 direct-to-Earth pass returned enough data to plan a long drive. Opportunity drove 48.4 meters (159 feet), which put it over the 5-kilometer mark. The odometry total after this drive is 5,044 meters (3.13 miles).
Sol 429 (April 8, 2005): Restricted sol; remote science only.
Daily Update - 4/8/05
Spirit Switchbacking Uphill
Spirit Status for sol 442-448
Spirit continues slipping in sandy terrain but forges ahead using crafty techniques such as switchbacking and creating a zigzag course.
Sol 442 (March 31, 2005):
Spirit drove successfully uphill for 12.6 meters (41.3 feet). At the start of the drive, Spirit averaged a 42.7 percent slip, but this quickly improved. In the last 3 meters (10 feet), Spirit only slipped 14.6 percent. The average slip for the drive was 17.6 percent.
Spirit performed 4 hours of targeted remote sensing, which included panoramic camera images and miniature thermal emission spectrometer readings.
The team planned a long drive through tricky terrain with switchbacks to help Spirit ascend. Spirit drove approximately 8.8 meters (29 feet).
Spirit performed remote sensing in the afternoon, including an image brightness test with the navigation camera. The goal of this test is to establish the latest time when Spirit can take images prior to sunset and still have viable images to use in the rover drivers' planning tools. The image analysis may allow the rover team to use later times for post-drive imaging and thus increase Spirit's drive time every sol. This is part two of the testing.
Spirit and Opportunity use NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter as their main communications link between Mars and Earth. On April 2, Odyssey entered "safe mode," which is a protective state a spacecraft automatically enters when onboard fault protection software instructs the spacecraft to disregard its onboard sequence of commands and wait for instructions from the ground. As a result, relay communication with the rovers was suspended, and Spirit did not receive any data from sols 444 and 445. With an unknown status of the rover after its drive, the Spirit team restricted rover operations to remote sensing.
The Odyssey flight team scrambled to recover the orbiter, but it remained in a safe state, not yet available to support relay communications. Spirit received very little information from its "direct-to-earth" communications link, so the rover team planned another basic remote sensing sol, which generated little data.
Sol 448 (April 7, 2005):
Spirit performed additional remote sensing, including panoramic camera and navigation camera imaging. The Odyssey team brought the orbiter back on-line, the Spirit team received all imaging needed for continuing to drive, and team members are planning to drive on sol 449 with a new appreciation for their orbiting partner! The Odyssey team is investigating the cause behind the fault protection software sending the orbiter into safe mode.
Daily Update - 4/4/05
Spirit Slipping on New Terrain
Spirit Status for sol 436-441
Spirit is heading toward the summit of "Husband Hill." The rover has been making slow progress recently due to slippage on new, sandy terrain, but it is persevering to reach the target. The rover team performed image brightness tests with the navigation camera to assess how late in the sol Spirit can use sunlight for imaging.
Sol 436 (March 25, 2005):
Spirit took panoramic camera images of areas dubbed "Cottontail" and "Blanket." The rover also completed a 24-meter (79-foot) drive.
Spirit took some post-drive images and performed other remote sensing. It took a sky survey, measured the opacity of the atmosphere, and looked for dust devils.
Spirit did a lot of remote sensing on sol 438, taking three surveys of the sky, measuring the opacity of the atmosphere, searching for dust devils, and looking for clouds.
Spirit drove 3 meters (10 feet). It also conducted an image brightness test with its navigation camera. The rovers can't take images when it is too late in the sol since they use the natural light from the Sun to illuminate features on Mars. The rover team experimented with taking pictures later and later this sol. Currently, the rover team does not usually take pictures after long drives, but if the images taken later in the sol come back clear and useful, then the team will start commanding the rover to take images later in the sol, after drives.
Spirit completed a 1.7-meter (5.7-foot) drive.
Sol 441 (March 31, 2005):
The rover completed a 2.28-meter (7.48-foot) drive. On the new terrain that Spirit has reached, the rover slipped 45 percent on an 11-degree slope. In the past, when Spirit was on an 11-degree slope, the rover did not slip as much, but this terrain is much sandier than previous terrain Spirit has driven on. The rover used to have a slip limit at 40 percent, so the rover would automatically shut off if it slipped that much. The rover team increased the allowable slippage to 60 percent to enable the rover to progress and move forward.
Daily Update - 4/1/05
Opportunity Status for sol 415-420
Sometimes Opportunity needs to stop and smell the roses … uh, or the soil as the case may be. This week, the science team chose to examine the mineral content of the rippled ground before continuing the southward trek. The team is interested in comparing the chemical makeup of the ripples' troughs to that of the ripples' crests. Opportunity stopped at a nice trough, extended its robotic arm and investigated the soil. It then drove up onto one of the ripples to examine the crest.
Sols 415 to 417 (March 25-27, 2005):
Zeroing in on a soil target called "Mobarak" in honor of Persian New Year, Opportunity has had its head down in a trough for three sols trying to figure out what the trough soil is made of. During an observation like this, it uses all of its in-situ instruments taking microscopic images, alpha particle X-ray spectrometer readings and Moessbauer spectrometer readings.
After Opportunity had looked at the soil in the trough, it was time to examine the soil at the top of the ripple. The rover planners perfectly executed a 7-meter (23-foot) drive that placed the rover right at the top of the ripple. Opportunity deployed its arm once again and inspected the soil.
Sols 419 and 420:
Here, Opportunity has the chance to look at two targets, "Norooz" and "Mayberooz," again studying the soil properties.
Sols 421 and 422 (March 31 and April 1, 2005):
Actually, this is kind of neat. As this report is being written, Opportunity is on Mars driving away from this soil survey spot and heading toward the "Viking" crater. When it gets there, it will stop and image the crater for two days.