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Daily Update - 6/24/06
Three Sols of Driving Gain 138 Meters
Opportunity Status for sol 852-858

Opportunity is healthy. The rover has started receiving a new flight software load. It also advanced 138.1 meters (453 feet) toward "Victoria Crater" in three sols of driving and observed outcrop targets. As of sol 855 (June 20) Opportunity was 780 meters (just under half a mile) from Victoria Crater and about 300 meters (984 feet) from "Beagle Crater."

Engineers are uploading new flight software to both Opportunity and Spirit. The upload process is expected to take several weeks before the new software is installed and used. To expedite this process, the team is gradually increasing the duration of Opportunity's high-gain antenna uplink sessions. No files of the new flight software were uplinked via UHF this week. However, beginning with sol 864 (June 29, 2006), Opportunity will begin receiving flight software files via its daily UHF-band communication window as well as via the X-band high-gain antenna.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sol 852 (June 17): Files were loaded for the new flight software via a 20-minute window of communication via the high-gain antenna. Targeted remote sensing with the panoramic camera included an assessment of the clarity of the atmosphere ("tau") and imaging of targets called "Holberg" and "Blixen." The miniature thermal emission spectrometer was used for observations of Holberg, Blixen, sky and ground.

Sol 853: A flight software upload used a 20-minute high-gain antenna window. The rover drove 42.1 meters (138 feet). Untargeted remote sensing included post-drive imaging by the navigation camera and the panoramic camera, an assessment of tau by the panoramic camera, a check for clouds with the navigation camera, and sky and ground observations with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 854: Another flight software upload was accomplished during a 20-minute high-gain antenna communication window. The panoramic camera checked tau. The navigation camera looked back in the direction toward where sol 853's drive began.

Sol 855: During a 30-minute high-gain antenna session, more of the new flight software was transmitted. Opportunity drove 39.4 meters (129 feet). The navigation camera and panoramic camera made observations from the new location. The panoramic camera checked tau. The miniature thermal emission spectrometer completed a sky and ground observation.

Sol 856: During a one-hour window, another flight software upload was accomplished. Untargeted remote sensing included a panoramic camera observation of the ground's brightness, a panoramic camera assessment of tau, and a miniature thermal emission spectrometer observation of sky and ground.

Sol 857: More flight software files were uploaded during a 30-minute high-gain antenna window. The rover drove 56.6 meters (186 feet). Opportunity also conducted a panoramic camera assessment of tau, a panoramic camera calibration, and a miniature thermal emission spectrometer observation of sky and ground.

Sol 858 (June 23, 2006): A two-hour high-gain antenna session allowed for the upload of more flight software updates. The navigation camera looked back in the direction toward where sol 857's drive began. The panoramic camera checked tau and made a calibration observation. The miniature thermal emission spectrometer observed sky and ground.

Opportunity's total odometry as of the end of the drive on sol 855 (June 20, 2006) was 8,190.89 meters (5.09 miles).

Daily Update - 6/23/06
Spirit "Warms up the Engines," Continues Work on Mars
Spirit Status for sol 874-880

Since the beginning of Spirit's winter science campaign, the science and engineering teams have held joint meetings every few weeks to track campaign progress and come up with a strategic plan that balances engineering resources with science productivity. This week, Spirit began acquiring the 22nd column of the 27-column "McMurdo panorama" and completed the seventh of nine photon transfer calibrations – procedures designed to measure electronic noise (unwanted signals) picked up by imaging sensors that convert light into electrical current in the rover's cameras.

Spirit also conducted studies of a soil target nicknamed "Halley Brunt," which is an undisturbed exposure of bright, sparkly bits of soil near the rover's left front wheel. The work included 5 hours of examination with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, 10 hours of examination with the Moessbauer spectrometer, and acquisition of microscopic images.

For the first time on either rover, Spirit's battery heaters turned on at 8:15 a.m. local solar time on Mars on Sol 865 (June 9, 2006). The heaters activate automatically when local temperatures drop to about minus 19 degrees Celsius (minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit). The lowest allowable operating temperature is minus 20 degrees C (minus 4 degrees F.).

Sol-by-sol summaries

Sol 874 (June 18, 2006): Spirit acquired Part A of column 22 of the McMurdo panorama.

Sol 875: Spirit studied soil target "Halley Brunt" with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 876: Spirit completed a photon transfer calibration of the microscopic imager. Spirit also acquired a panoramic view of a dune field called "El Dorado" and conducted remote studies using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 877: Spirit acquired navigation camera images of the rover's tracks and continued to make remote observations using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. While communicating with the Odyssey spacecraft as it passed overhead, Spirit calibrated the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, took images of a sand ripple using the hazard avoidance cameras, and made observations of the sky and ground using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 878: Spirit completed a dust monitoring assessment of the panoramic camera's mast assembly, acquired panoramic camera images to measure atmospheric dust opacity (known as a tau measurement), and conducted sky and ground observations using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 879: Plans called for Spirit to complete acquisition of Part B of column 22 of the McMurdo panorama and make more observations with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 880 (June 24, 2006): Plans called for Spirit to take microscopic images of Halley Brunt and then switch tools to the Moessbauer spectrometer for a 10-hour study of the same target.

Odometry

As of sol 877 (June 21, 2006), Spirit's total odometry remained at 6,876.18 meters (4.27 miles).

Daily Update - 6/21/06
Spirit Continues Work Even As Martian Winter Deepens
Spirit Status for sol 867-873

Spirit continues to be productive, even as winter conditions harshen. Spirit now receives about one-third as much solar energy as the rover received in mid-2005 while on "Husband Hill." That is, the rover now receives about 310 watt-hours per Martian day, or sol, compared with 900 watt-hours per sol last summer. (A hundred watt-hours is the amount of electricity needed to light one 100-watt bulb for one hour.) The power supply limits how much work Spirit can do each sol. Even so, Spirit acquired two more columns of the "McMurdo panorama" plus a mosaic of microscopic images of a third layer of soil in a target known as "Progress 3." In addition, Spirit completed six targeted studies using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, all while the rover was also communicating with the Odyssey spacecraft during its overhead pass.

The rover team also planned to begin sending new flight software, known as version R9.2, to Spirit. Two previous flight-software upgrades were sent solely via Spirit's high-gain, X-band antenna. The new uplink plan, however, calls for use of both X-band and UHF antennas because X-band communications with Spirit are often unavailable due to use of that frequency to support NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter during its aerobraking around the planet.

Sol-by-sol summary

Sol 867 (June 11, 2006): Spirit acquired the first portion of column 20 (a one-by-two mosaic) of the McMurdo panorama.

Sol 868: Spirit completed a "photon transfer calibration" of the front hazard-avoidance cameras. This procedure is designed to measure electronic noise (unwanted signals) picked up by imaging sensors that convert light into electrical current in the rover's cameras.

Sol 869: Spirit acquired the second portion of column 20 (a one-by-three mosaic) of the McMurdo panorama. The rover made targeted observations with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer on rock targets nicknamed "Riquelme" and "Zucchelli" while communicating with the Odyssey spacecraft as it passed overhead.

Sol 870: Spirit acquired microscopic images of the soil target known as "Progress 3" and made remote observations of the sky and ground using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 871: Spirit acquired images of the rock abrasion tool and spent 60 minutes communicating with Odyssey while conducting remote observations of rock targets nicknamed "Law-Ricovita," "Tor," "Scott Base," and "Arctowski" using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 872: Plans called for transmission of new flight software, version R9.2, to Spirit.

Sol 873 (June 17, 2006): Plans called for Spirit to acquire super-high-resolution images of a rock target known as "Korolev" using the panoramic camera.

Odometry

As of sol 869 (June 13, 2006), Spirit's total odometry remained at 6,876.18 meters (4.27 miles).

Daily Update - 6/15/06
Opportunity Hits Five-Mile Mark
Opportunity Status for sol 844-851

After the previous week's successful extraction from "Jammerbugt," Opportunity resumed its drive south. Approximately 95 meters (312 feet) was covered this week, and Opportunity reached the five-mile mark for total odometry! Next week the rover will be on restricted sols, meaning the end-of-sol data from the rover does not get to Earth until late in the day, so the team plans every other day without it. The plan will be for Opportunity to drive every other day. On the days off, the team will plan light remote sensing and downlink some of the unsent data that is building up in memory.

Sol-by-sol summaries

Sol 844 (June 9, 2006): A 20-meter (66-foot) drive was planned for this sol. Planners intended for the drive to take Opportunity south, down the next trough over from the previous drive. The drive stopped after 4.8 meters (16 feet), when the first slip check detected 42 percent slip. Forty percent was the maximum allowed.

Sol 845: The rover conducted targeted remote sensing, including panoramic camera imaging of targets called "Jylland" and "Gorm," and an observation of Gorm with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. The team is informally naming targets in honor of Danish Constitution Day (June 5). Jylland is the main island of the Danish peninsula, and Gorm was the first king of Denmark.

Sol 846: After little progress in two adjacent troughs, Opportunity moved one more trough to the west. Slip checks were used to prevent driving with over 40 percent slip. The soil was relatively firm, and the rover made 9 meters (30 feet) of progress.

Sol 847: Opportunity conducted atmospheric science and took rear-looking images with its navigation camera.

Sol 848: The drive today took Opportunity down a trough. The team turned the rover around on a piece of outcrop so that it could drive backwards (to improve UHF data return). The drive proceeded down the trough and made 20.6 meters (68 feet) of progress. Before the drive, the panoramic camera took an image of a small crater, nicknamed "Sjaelland" for the biggest island of Denmark and the site of the capital.

Sol 849: Continuing south, Opportunity made 24 meters (79 feet) of progress. Slip checks were done approximately every 5 meters (16 feet) while on sand. The drive ended on a patch of outcrop.

Sol 850: To start the day, Opportunity took a panoramic camera image of target "Steno" (informally named for Niels Steensen, or Nicholas Steno, a 17th century Danish anatomist and geologist). The drive was entirely over outcrop, and approximately 36 meters (118 feet) of progress was made. Opportunity performed one bonus slip check, on an area with a little more sand than the rest. As expected, very little slip was detected.

Sol 851 (June 16, 2006): Plans call for driving farther south.

Opportunity's total odometry as of sol 850 (June 15, 2006) is 8,080.38 meters (5.02 miles).



Daily Update - 6/11/06
Progress on Long-Term Experiments
Spirit Status for sol 860-866

Spirit is healthy and continues to make progress on the rover's winter science experiments. Spirit has begun work on a new "photon transfer calibration" experiment designed to measure electronic noise (unwanted signals) picked up by CCDs (charge-coupled devices -- imaging sensors that convert light into electrical current) in the rover's cameras. This week the rover conducted the calibration experiment on the panoramic camera and rear hazard-avoidance cameras.

Spirit also began an experiment to look for wind-driven changes in the Martian surface by making the first of several monthly checks, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera, of a bright soil target nicknamed "Tyrone." In addition, that camera acquired column 18 of the "McMurdo panorama." Rover science team members prepared to have the rover remove another 2 millimeters of soil as part of a soil analysis experiment. The newly exposed soil target will be called "Progress 3."

Sol-by-sol summaries

Sol 860 (June 4, 2006): Spirit completed 30 minutes of remote sensing and conducted the photon transfer calibration on the panoramic camera. Demonstrating that the rover is capable of multi-tasking, Spirit spent 60 minutes communicating with NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft as Odyssey passed overhead while Spirit also studied Martian terrain targets with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 861: Spirit collected images with the microscopic imager and transmitted 70 megabits of data over UHF frequencies during a morning telecommunications link with Odyssey. Spirit also checked the three-dimensional movement of the rock abrasion tool at the end of the rover's instrument arm. This process involves taking measurements from encoders, which resemble dials on a safe. The encoders tick off the distance traveled by motor shafts and convert the mechanical motion into electronic signals. The results enable engineers to check for slippage or sticking that would necessitate changes in the amount of movement needed to position the instrument as desired.

Sol 862: Spirit acquired the first part of Column 18 (a 1-by-3 mosaic) of the McMurdo panorama. The rover spent 60 minutes communicating with Odyssey as it passed overhead, while also conducting remote targeted sensing using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 863: Spirit acquired the second half of Column 18 (a 1-by-3 mosaic) of the McMurdo panorama and took a picture of the Martian sunset.

Sol 864: Spirit took a 13-filter color image of the Tyrone soil target using the panoramic camera and conducted analysis of the ground and sky at different elevations using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 865: Spirit completed the photon transfer calibration experiment on the rover's rear hazard-avoidance cameras.

Sol 866 (June 10, 2006): Plans called for Spirit to use the rock abrasion tool to brush away a third layer of soil 2 millimeters thick from the soil target called Progress. Spirit was to spend 54 minutes on the task as part of a progressive soil brushing experiment before documenting the spot with images from the panoramic camera using all 13 color filters.

Odometry As of sol 863 (June 7, 2006), Spirit's total odometry remained at 6,876.18 meters (4.27 miles).

Daily Update - 6/11/06
Opportunity on the Road Again
Opportunity Status for sol 837-844

Opportunity is healthy, and the team has successfully extracted the rover from the dune called "Jammerbugt." The rover first backed into this dune on sol 830 (May 24, 2006) to increase its northerly tilt. On sol 833's drive, the wheels became partially embedded and Opportunity did not make significant progress. The extraction started on sol 836, when the rover was commanded to drive forward over its previous tracks. On sol 841 the extraction was complete. Later in the week Opportunity resumed the drive toward "Victoria Crater."

Sol-by-sol summaries

Sol 837 (June 1, 2006): This was the second sol of the extraction effort. Ten steps of one-meter (3.3 feet) each were commanded. To prevent the rover from moving too far or in a way that the team did not expect, the drive commands included checks on tilt, yaw, suspension angles, and distance traveled. Several safety checks, some redundant, were employed to stop the rover after it had safely reached outcrop. Forward motion of approximately 8 centimeters (3.1 inches) was recorded.

Sol 838: Sol 838 was the first sol of a three-sol weekend plan with three identical drives planned. At first, only the sol 838 drive was uplinked to the rover. "Go/no-go" meetings were held over the weekend to review the rover's progress and decide whether the next drive sequence was safe to uplink. The first sol of the three-sol plan was the third sol of the extraction effort. The drive plan was identical to sol 837's, except that the wheels were steered slightly down-slope. In 10 meters (33 feet) of commanded motion, only 4.2 centimeters (1.7 inches) of progress was made, with progress decreasing as the drive continued. The wheels were more caked after the drive than before it. Progress seen in this drive was on par with what was observed when Opportunity was embedded in "Purgatory Dune."

Sol 839: This was the fourth sol of the extraction effort. The sequence was identical to the previous sol's. Approximately 5 centimeters (2 inches) of progress was made, which was slightly better than in the preceding sol, but with a similar trend of less progress towards the end of the drive. The wheels appeared cleaner.

Sol 840: This was the fifth sol of the extraction effort. The sequence was identical to the previous sol's. Downlink for this came in about 3 a.m. Monday (June 5, 2006) morning, and it was a great way to start the week. Twenty-eight centimeters (11 inches) of progress was made! The front wheels were significantly less buried and they were cleaner. Based on the Purgatory experience, these were taken as signs that the rover was about to break free.

Sol 841: Sol 841 was the sixth sol of the extraction effort. The sequence was similar to the previous sol's, but with tighter limits to make sure the rover didn't exceed the drive goal. Ten steps of one-meter (3.3 feet) each were commanded, but only 3 were executed. After visual odometry measured 2.8 meters (9.2 feet) of progress and a corresponding change in heading, the drive stopped as intended. The first step showed only 18 percent slip, and the next two steps showed essentially no slip. All six wheels reached outcrop! This sol began on June 5, Danish Constitution Day. The holiday commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the Danish Constitution of 1849, which established Denmark as a constitutional monarchy, and also honors the constitution of 1953, which was adopted on the same date. Denmark provided magnet arrays for Opportunity's and Spirit's studies of airborne dust. In honor of Danish colleagues, the rover team decided to use Danish names for targets in the area of Opportunity's current location.

Sol 842: Opportunity took high-resolution imaging of the newly named dune, Jammerbugt, where it had become temporarily embedded. The informal name comes from a bay named Jammerbugt (The Bay of Wailing) on the north coast of Denmark, known for its many shipwrecks. Opportunity also acquired the standard set of post-drive imaging to assist in planning the next drive.

Sol 843: Back on the road again! Opportunity retraced its steps about 5 meters (16.4 feet) back to another outcrop patch. From there, the planned route started south down a trough parallel to the one the team had previously chosen. The rover drove 11.3 meters (37 feet), but no southerly progress was made.

Sol 844 (June 9, 2006): Plans call for a 20-meter (66-foot) drive southward. Slip checks were included in the commands, to stop the drive in case of excessive slip.

Odometry

As of sol 843 (June 8, 2006), Opportunity's total odometry is 7,985.5 meters (4.96 miles).

Daily Update - 6/2/06
Digging Out of the Dune
Opportunity Status for sol 833-837

Opportunity is less than a kilometer (just over half a mile) from "Victoria Crater." During the last planned drive on sol 833, the rover became embedded in a soft dune. As designed, the drive was stopped by a slip check. The extraction process began on sol 836, with 5 meters (16 feet) of commanded motion, and 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) of actual forward progress. The results are encouraging, and extraction will continue on Friday (June 2, 2006) and over the weekend if necessary. Opportunity is otherwise healthy and continues to conduct atmospheric and targeted remote sensing on the path south.

Sol-by-sol summaries

Sol 833 (May 28, 2006): For this sol, the team planned a drive of about 30 meters (98 feet), post-drive imaging, and atmospheric remote sensing. The drive started with a small turn in place to move to the center of a dune trough. The material the rover is in is soft, and the rover experienced very high rates of slippage. A slip check precluded further driving.

Sol 834: On this second sol of a two-sol plan, Opportunity performed some atmospheric remote sensing (including cloud imaging) and recharged the batteries.

Sol 835: Opportunity took a break from driving and collected high-resolution images to better characterize the material in which the rover is embedded.

Sol 836: After evaluating the tracks and soil, the team began the extraction process. Five meters (16 feet) of driving was commanded, with limits imposed on rover tilt, mobility suspension angles, pitch, yaw, and total distance traversed. The drive resulted in 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) of forward progress. This is more than three times the rate of progress experienced during the "Purgatory Dune" extraction in April and May 2005. Hazard avoidance camera images also show that the front cleats are not as caked as during the Purgatory extraction.

Sol 837 (June 1): Plans called for the dune extraction to continue on this sol, with 10 meters (33 feet) of commanded motion. The sol 836 mobility safety checks were used. In addition, the allowable yaw range was narrowed, and the drive sequence also imposed a new limit for maximum visual odometry failures. Since visual odometry is likely to fail if more than expected progress is made, this will prevent the rover from traveling too far if it should happen to break free of the dune.

As of sol 836, Opportunity's total odometry is 7971.42 meters (4.95 miles).

Daily Update - 6/2/06
Spirit Perfects Pointing Parameters, Collects Images Large and Small
Spirit Status for sol 855-859

Since arriving at the rover's current location on the 807th sol, or Martian day, of exploration (April 10, 2006), Spirit's knowledge of its attitude relative to the sun has drifted. The rover uses an onboard computer to keep track of attitude changes, but error builds up in this measurement over time. On sol 855 (May 30, 2006), rover planners transmitted an attitude update of 1.97 degrees to correct for the drift. After the update, Spirit re-acquired images from the same location to allow the science team to accurately target future observations.

Meanwhile, Spirit continued acquisition of the "McMurdo panorama" and removed another 2 millimeters of soil as part of a layer-by-layer soil study.

Sol-by-sol summaries

Sol 855 (May 30, 2006): Spirit completed a quick get-fine attitude, which is a procedure completed every couple of weeks to correct any error in the rover's knowledge of its attitude relative to the sun. Spirit also took a 360-degree view of its surroundings with the navigation camera and a forward-looking view through the front hazard avoidance camera. The rover conducted remote sensing with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer during the overhead pass of the Mars Odyssey spacecraft.

Sol 856: Spirit acquired column 16 (a one-by-five mosaic) of the McMurdo panorama.

Sol 857: Spirit spent 80 minutes brushing away another 2 millimeters of soil from the soil target "Progress." This layer of the study is known as "Progress 3."

Sol 858: Plans called for Spirit to take microscopic images of Progress 3, conduct remote sensing with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer during the afternoon overhead pass of the Odyssey spacecraft, and take two panoramic-camera images during the Martian sunset.

Sol 859 (June 3, 2006): Plans call for Spirit to acquire column 17 (a one-by-three mosaic) of the McMurdo panorama.

Odometry:

As of sol 857 (June 1, 2006), Spirit's total odometry remained at 6,876.18 meters (4.27 miles).

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