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Daily Update - 9/24/08
Slipping Like a Dune Buggy
Opportunity Status for sol 1648-1654

Slipping Like a Dune Buggy

During the past week, Opportunity has been trying to reach a patch of dust between two crests of the ridge surrounding "Victoria Crater." The rover approached the ridge from the west, driving on flat ground, on Martian days, or sols, 1648 and 1650 (Sept. 12 and Sept. 14, 2008). Then, after reaching a staging position, Opportunity began to climb the ridge. That's when the rover's wheels began slipping excessively on the sandy slope.

Rover drivers decided to give Opportunity another chance to make it up the slope by loosening the slip constraints. This allowed Opportunity to keep trying to climb the slope with a higher rate of wheel slippage. If the attempt to do this as planned on sol 1654 (Sept. 18, 2008) is not successful, rover drivers may try a different approach or abandon the effort.

After the dust patch campaign, plans call for Opportunity to drive south toward a 20-kilometer-wide (12-mile-wide) crater 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) away.

Opportunity is healthy, and all subsystems are performing as expected. Based on the latest data from sol 1653 (Sept. 17, 2008), the rover has 582 watt-hours of solar power available each day. (One hundred watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for one hour.)

Sol-by-sol summary

In addition to measuring dust-related changes in atmospheric clarity each day with the panoramic camera, Opportunity completed the following activities:

Sol 1648 (Sept. 12, 2008): Opportunity stowed the robotic arm and began driving toward the dust patch. Just before and after ending the drive, Opportunity took images with the hazard-avoidance and navigation cameras, respectively. The rover acquired a 4-by-1 panel of images, called the "Bagnold mosaic," with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1649: Opportunity took full-color images, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera, of a target nicknamed "Drummond." After relaying data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth, Opportunity measured argon gas in the Martian atmosphere with the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 1650: In the morning, Opportunity took thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera. The rover continued driving toward the dust patch and documented progress before and after ending the drive by taking images with the engineering cameras. Opportunity acquired another 4-by-1 panel of images for the Bagnold mosaic before sending data to Odyssey.

Sol 1651: Opportunity searched for morning clouds in the Martian sky by taking six time-lapse, movie frames with the navigation camera. The rover took spot images of the sky for calibration purposes, surveyed the horizon, and surveyed the sky at low Sun with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1652: In the morning, Opportunity searched for clouds passing overhead by taking six time-lapse, movie frames with the navigation camera. The rover checked for drift -- changes with time -- in the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and also conducted a test of the instrument. Before beginning the day's drive, Opportunity used the spectrometer to study a target dubbed "Velvet" and survey the sky and ground at different elevations. The rover then attempted to drive up the ridge to the dust patch, acquiring images along the way with the hazard-avoidance and navigation cameras. Opportunity sent data to Odyssey for transmission to Earth.

Sol 1653: Opportunity acquired a 3-by-1 mosaic of westward-looking images with the navigation camera and took images in total darkness with the panoramic camera for calibration purposes.

Sol 1654 (Sept. 18, 2008): Upon rising, Opportunity took more "dark current" images with the panoramic camera for calibration purposes. The rover tried once more to drive to the dust patch, taking images before and after ending the drive with the hazard-avoidance and navigation cameras. Before proceeding with plans to measure atmospheric argon, Opportunity transmitted data to Odyssey for relay to Earth.

Odometry

As of sol 1653 (Sept. 17, 2008), Opportunity’s total odometry was 11,796.22 meters (7.33 miles).



Daily Update - 9/19/08
Playing in the Sand
Opportunity Status for sol 1641-1647

During the past week, Opportunity performed several tests of the robotic arm to learn how to use it with a disabled shoulder joint. Having successfully completed those tests, Opportunity is moving on to investigate some bright patches of dust. Scientists hope to ascertain if the patches contain material not thoroughly analyzed in the past.

On sol (Martian day) 1641 (Sept. 4, 2008), Opportunity homed in on an area of sand that appeared to contain a high concentration of dust. For the next several days, sols 1642-1647 (Sept. 5-11, 2008), the rover tested the robotic arm's ability to place scientific instruments on specific targets in the sand. These instruments included the Mössbauer spectrometer, microscopic imager, and alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer. Tests revealed that the robotic arm placed the instruments in position with very little error in spite of the disabled shoulder joint. Because the dust was not pure enough to yield the desired scientific results, engineers decided on sol 1648 (Sept. 12, 2008) to drive the rover north to a more promising area of apparent dust patches.

On sol 1644 (Sept. 7, 2009), Opportunity relayed data at UHF frequencies to NASA's Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter (MRO). Typically, the rover sends data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth. Once a month, Opportunity is relaying data to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in preparation for using it more in the future.

Opportunity is healthy, with all subsystems performing as expected as of the most recent transfer of information from NASA's Odyssey orbiter on sol 1647 (Sept. 11, 2008). Power rose to 652 watt-hours (enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for a tad longer than 6.5 hours).

Sol-by-sol summary

Each Martian day, or sol, Opportunity measured dust-related changes in atmospheric clarity with the panoramic camera. In addition, Opportunity completed the following activities:

Sol 1641 (Sept. 4, 2008): Before driving, Opportunity acquired a 3-by-1 panel of panoramic-camera images looking north. The rover then nudged toward a bright patch and, after stopping, acquired images of the ground near its wheels and the area directly ahead with the hazard-avoidance and navigation cameras, respectively. The rover relayed data to Odyssey.

Sol 1642: In the morning, Opportunity took thumbnail images and spot images of the sky for calibration purposes with the panoramic camera. Next, the rover tested movement and placement of the Mössbauer spectrometer, taking images near the ground with the hazard-avoidance cameras and images from above with the panoramic camera. Opportunity then used the Mössbauer spectrometer to acquire compositional data from a sand dune on the rim of "Victoria Crater." After relaying data to Odyssey, Opportunity went into a mini-deep sleep.

Sol 1643: Opportunity acquired six, time-lapse movie frames in search of morning clouds with the navigation camera. Opportunity continued to acquire data from the sand dune at the rim of Victoria Crater with the Mössbauer spectrometer. Opportunity took full-color images, using all 13 color filters of the panoramic camera, of the rover's tracks. After sending data to Odyssey, Opportunity went into a mini-deep sleep.

Sol 1644: Opportunity acquired six, time-lapse movie frames in search of clouds. The rover continued to collect data from the dune on the rim of Victoria Crater using the Mössbauer spectrometer. Before communicating with Odyssey, Opportunity relayed data to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for transmission to Earth. After sending data to Odyssey, the rover went into a mini-deep sleep.

Sol 1645: In the morning, Opportunity acquired six, time-lapse movie frames in search of clouds with the navigation camera. Opportunity acquired a 1-by-3-by-15 stack of microscopic images of ripple soil. The rover restarted the Mössbauer spectrometer and began collecting data from the soil in the ripples. After transmitting data to Odysssey, Opportunity acquired a 3-by-1 panel of images of a target dubbed "Schuchert."

Sol 1646: Opportunity monitored dust accumulation on the panoramic-camera mast assembly and restarted the Mössbauer spectrometer for collecting data on the ripple soil. The rover used the miniature thermal emission spectrometer to complete a mini-survey of the sky and ground. Before sending data to Odyssey, Opportunity used the spectrometer to characterize the external calibration target.

Sol 1647 (Sept. 11, 2008): Opportunity acquired more time-lapse, movie frames to document potential clouds passing overhead. The rover took a 3-by-1 panel of images of Schuchert with the panoramic camera and a time-lapse movie in search of clouds. Opportunity placed the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer on the ripple soil and, after sending data to Odyssey, acquired compositional data. Plans for the following morning called for the rover to study a cobble field, acquiring a 4-by-1 panel of images with the panoramic camera.

Odometry

As of sol 1647 (Sept. 11, 2008), Opportunity’s total odometry was 11,782.10 meters (7.32 miles).



Daily Update - 9/19/08
Light Duty for Now
Spirit Status for sol 1657-1662

Spirit continues to conserve solar power while performing light science activities during the Martian winter. During the past week, Spirit studied the atmosphere and acquired two frames of the full-color image mosaic known as the "Bonestell panorama."

Spirit is healthy and all subsystems are performing as expected as of the relay of information from NASA's Odyssey orbiter on sol 1666 (Sept. 9, 2008). Solar-array energy and tau -- a measure of atmospheric opacity caused by suspended dust -- are holding steady at 245 watt-hours (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for one hour) and 0.20, respectively.

Sol-by-sol summary

In addition to taking daily measurements of dust-related changes in atmospheric opacity (tau), Spirit completed the following activities:

Sol 1663 (Sept. 6, 2008): Spirit recharged the batteries.

Sol 1664: Spirit acquired column 18 of the Bonestell panorama, using all 13 color filters of the panoramic camera.

Sol 1665: Spirit recharged the batteries.

Sol 1666: Spirit recharged the batteries.

Sol 1667: Spirit received new instructions from Earth via the rover's high-gain antenna and relayed data to the UHF antenna on NASA's Odyssey orbiter to be transmitted to Earth.

Sol 1668 (Sept. 11, 2008): Spirit monitored dust accumulation on the panoramic-camera mast assembly and acquired column 19 of the Bonestell panorama.

Odometry

As of sol 1666 (Sept. 9, 2008), Spirit’s total odometry was 7,528.0 meters (4.7 miles).



Daily Update - 9/11/08
Farewell,
Opportunity Status for sol 1634-1640

Opportunity has completed one of the most fantastic scientific campaigns of the Mars Exploration Rover mission -- the interior investigation of "Victoria Crater." After spending more than 340 Martian days, known as sols -- almost one Earth year -- inside the crater, Opportunity climbed back out on sol 1634 (Aug. 28, 2008). To do so, Opportunity retraced the wheel tracks the robotic geologist had made while crossing a large sand ripple and entering Victoria on the slopes of an alcove known as "Duck Bay."

From the crater rim, Opportunity gave a final salute to Victoria, raising its robotic arm on sol 1639 (Sept. 2, 2008) and taking a snapshot of its shadow with the front hazard-avoidance cameras. The rover completed the salute by swinging the arm at its elbow joint back to the starting position.

Opportunity then got into position to practice using an ailing shoulder joint on the robotic arm. The shoulder joint had begun showing signs of degradation on sol 1502 (April 15, 2008). Rover operators selected the large sand ripple at the lip of Victoria Crater as an opportune target. There, the rover will practice learning to use the arm again.

Remote sensing highlights of the week included taking images of the tracks Opportunity left behind on the plains more than a year ago as well as color images of a nearby cobble called "Isle Royale." The rover also acquired images of a planned study area known as "Bright Spot" because of the large amount of sunlight reflected from its surface. Along the way, Opportunity continued to study the Martian atmosphere and clouds.

Opportunity is healthy, with all subsystems performing as expected as of the most recent transfer of information from NASA's Odyssey orbiter on sol 1640 (Sept. 3, 2008). Power has been excellent throughout this period, averaging about 621 watt-hours (enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for more than 6 hours).

Sol-by-sol summary

Each Martian day, or sol, Opportunity measured dust-related changes in atmospheric clarity with the panoramic camera. In addition, Opportunity completed the following activities:

Sol 1634 (Aug. 28, 2008): While driving, Opportunity took snapshots of its journey. After the day's drive, the rover acquired images of the surrounding terrain and the surface near its wheels with the navigation and hazard-avoidance cameras. After relaying data to the Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth, Opportunity measured argon gas in the Martian atmosphere with the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 1635: Opportunity searched for morning clouds with the navigation camera, acquiring six, time-lapse frames for a movie.

Sol 1636: Upon awakening, Opportunity acquired another six-frame, time-lapse movie in search of clouds with the navigation camera. The rover monitored dust accumulation on the panoramic-camera mast assembly and took images of the ripple at the lip of Victoria Crater with the panoramic camera. Opportunity took full-color images of Isle Royale, using all 13 color filters of the panoramic camera. After relaying data to Odyssey, Opportunity spent 5 hours and 20 minutes measuring argon gas in the atmosphere using the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 1637: After the day's drive, Opportunity completed a "get fine attitude," during which the rover compared its precise location relative to the Sun with the position indicated by the on-board, inertial measurement unit. Following the drive, Opportunity took images with the hazard-avoidance and navigation cameras. The rover acquired a full, 360-degree panorama of the area with the navigation camera. After communicating with Odyssey, Opportunity went into a deep sleep.

Sol 1638: In the morning, Opportunity surveyed the horizon with the panoramic camera. After sending data to Odyssey, the rover went into a deep sleep.

Sol 1639: Before beginning the day's drive, Opportunity took images of "Bright Patch Two" with the panoramic camera. Opportunity approached the large sand ripple on the rim of Victoria and took post-drive images with the hazard-avoidance and navigation cameras. After relaying data to Odyssey, the rover measured atmospheric argon with the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer. Opportunity then went into a mini-deep sleep.

Sol 1640 (Sept. 3, 2008): Opportunity acquired more images of Bright Patch Two as well as a 360-degree panorama of the area with the navigation camera. After sending data to Odyssey, the rover went into a deep sleep.

Odometry

As of sol 1639 (Sept. 2, 2008), Opportunity’s estimated total odometry was 11,781.51 meters (7.32 miles).



Daily Update - 9/10/08
Spirit Continues Work on Winter Panorama
Spirit Status for sol 1657-1662

Spirit continues to conserve power during the waning Martian winter while performing light science activities. As power permits, Spirit continues to acquire the individual frames of an image mosaic known as the "Bonestell panorama," which will portray a full-color view of the rover's winter outpost.

Spirit is healthy, with all subsystems performing as expected as of the most recent report from Mars sent by NASA's Odyssey orbiter on sol 1658 (Sept. 1, 2008). Solar-array energy had increased slightly from 235 to 245 watt-hours (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for one hour). Tau -- a measure of atmospheric opacity caused by suspended dust -- dropped from 0.274 to 0.218, meaning the skies were slightly clearer.

Sol-by-sol summary

In addition to taking daily measurements of dust-related changes in atmospheric opacity (tau), Spirit completed the following activities:

Sol 1657 (Aug. 31, 2008): Spirit acquired column 13, part 1 of the so-called "Bonestell panorama" of the rover's winter surroundings, using all 13 color filters of the panoramic camera.

Sol 1658: Spirit relayed data from Mars to NASA's Odyssey orbiter to be transmitted to Earth.

Sol 1659: Spirit received new instructions from Earth via the rover's high-gain, X-band antenna.

Sol 1660: Spirit recharged the batteries.

Sol 1661: Spirit recharged the batteries.

Sol 1662 (Sept. 5, 2008): Spirit recharged the batteries.

Odometry

As of sol 1658 (Sept. 1, 2008), Spirit’s total odometry remained at 7,528.0 meters (4.7 miles).



Daily Update - 9/10/08
On the Exit Ramp
Opportunity Status for sol 1621-1626

Opportunity is now about 12.5 meters (41.0 feet) from the place where engineers plan to drive the rover out of "Victoria Crater." During the past week, Opportunity traveled about 17 meters (56 feet), successfully crossing about 10 meters (30 feet) of sandy terrain and a portion of rocky outcrop. Once the rover reaches the exit point, Opportunity will still need to cross the ripple surrounding the inward-sloping alcove known as "Duck Bay.

Power has been excellent, averaging more than 510 watt-hours (on Earth, that's enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for 5 hours and 6 minutes).

Science observations during the past week included taking images of weathered rock exposures nicknamed "du Toit" and "Logan" as well as full-color images of the cobble known as "Jin" with the panoramic camera. Opportunity measured trace amounts of argon gas in the Martian atmosphere on sol 1623 (Aug. 17, 2008) using the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer and surveyed rock clasts on sol 1626 (Aug. 20, 2008) using the panoramic camera.

Opportunity is healthy, with all subsystems performing as expected as of the latest downlink from NASA's Odyssey orbiter on sol 1626 (Aug. 20, 2008).

Sol-by-sol summary

Each sol, Opportunity measured dust-related changes in atmospheric clarity with the panoramic camera. In addition, Opportunity completed the following activities:

Sol 1621 (Aug. 15, 2008): Just before and after ending the day's drive, Opportunity took images of the Martian surface near the rover's wheels with the hazard-avoidance cameras. After the drive, Opportunity took three image mosaics of the surrounding terrain -- two looking ahead and one looking back -- with the navigation camera.

Sol 1622: Upon wakening, Opportunity took spot images of the sky for calibration purposes with the panoramic camera. Opportunity next measured atmospheric opacity (known as tau) with both the navigation and panoramic cameras. Then, Opportunity surveyed the sky at high Sun and acquired thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1623: Opportunity started the day by taking six, freeze-frame images with the navigation camera for a movie in search of clouds. After acquiring panoramic-camera images of the rock target nicknamed Logan, Opportunity went for a drive. Just before and after ending the drive, the rover took hazard-avoidance-camera images of the surface next to its wheels. Following the drive, Opportunity also acquired two image mosaics of surrounding terrain with the navigation camera. After relaying data to Odyssey to be transmitted to Earth, Opportunity measured atmospheric argon with the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 1624: Opportunity surveyed the horizon in the morning and surveyed the sky at high Sun with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1625: First thing in the Martian morning, Opportunity took spot images of the sky with the panoramic camera and acquired six, time-lapse movie frames in search of clouds with the navigation camera. Opportunity then began the day's drive. Upon reaching the end of the drive, Opportunity acquired two image mosaics of the surrounding terrain with the navigation camera. The rover also inspected the surface near its wheels with the hazard-avoidance cameras.

Sol 1626 (Aug. 20, 2008): Opportunity was about 12.5 meters (41.0 feet) from the rover's exit point out of Victoria Crater. Early in the morning, Opportunity took spot images of the sky for calibration purposes with the panoramic camera and monitored dust accumulation on the rover mast. Using all 13 color filters of the panoramic camera, Opportunity completed a systematic ground survey, took images of Jin and completed a survey of nearby rock clasts. Plans for the following morning called for Opportunity to survey the horizon with the panoramic camera.

Odometry

As of sol 1626 (Aug. 20, 2008), Opportunity’s total odometry was 11,755.61 meters (7.30 miles).



Daily Update - 9/10/08
Poised to Exit
Opportunity Status for sol 1627-1633

During the past week, Opportunity traversed almost 15 meters (49 feet) of upward-sloping, alternately rocky and sandy terrain on the way out of "Victoria Crater." The drive put Opportunity in position to make one last push over the final obstacle -- a ripple surrounding the alcove known as "Duck Bay."

Remote-sensing highlights included panoramic-camera images of weathered rock exposures known as "Barghoorn," "Dawson," and "Eugster." Other achievements were two surveys of the sky at high Sun and one survey of the horizon. Opportunity shot several time-lapse movies in search of clouds and rounded out the week's activities with a variety of atmospheric observations.

Opportunity is healthy, with all subsystems performing as expected as of the latest downlink from NASA's Odyssey orbiter on sol 1633 (Aug. 27, 2008). Power has been excellent throughout this period, averaging about 613 watt-hours (enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for more than 6 hours).

Sol-by-sol summary

Each Martian day, or sol, Opportunity measured dust-related changes in atmospheric clarity with the panoramic camera. Opportunity also completed the following activities:

Sol 1627 (Aug. 21, 2008): Opportunity implemented the "runout" portion of an earlier master sequence of commands following a glitch in transmissions from Earth.

Sol 1628: Opportunity surveyed the sky at high Sun and acquired a 2-by-1 image mosaic of Barghoorn with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1629: After relaying data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth, Opportunity integrated measurements of argon gas in the Martian atmosphere using the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 1630: Opportunity completed a morning survey of the horizon with the panoramic camera. After driving closer to the rim of Victoria Crater, Opportunity took images of the ground near the rover's wheels and the area in front of the rover with the hazard-avoidance and navigation cameras, respectively. The rover acquired a 5-panel image mosaic of the local scenery with the navigation camera.

Sol 1631: In the morning, Opportunity took spot images of the sky for calibration purposes with the panoramic camera. Opportunity surveyed the sky at high Sun and acquired a 2-by-1 panel of images of Dawson as well as a 2-by-1 panel of Eugster with the panoramic camera. The rover relayed data to Odyssey.

Sol 1632: Upon greeting the rising Sun, Opportunity surveyed the sky with the panoramic camera. Opportunity then searched for morning clouds by acquiring six, time-lapse movie frames with the navigation camera. Midway through the day's drive, Opportunity paused to take a navigation-camera image of the terrain ahead. At the end of the drive, the rover took images of the ground near its wheels and the terrain ahead with the hazard-avoidance and navigation cameras, respectively. Opportunity compiled a 3-by-1, post-drive mosaic of images of the rover's surroundings. Anticipating a large tilt in the rover's new parking space, Opportunity made sure the panoramic camera was not pointed above the horizon. After relaying data to Odyssey, Opportunity went into a deep sleep.

Sol 1633 (Aug. 27, 2008): Opportunity produced another time-lapse movie in search of morning clouds with the navigation camera. The rover completed a systematic survey of the ground in full color with the panoramic camera. Anticipating a large tilt in-between activities, the rover made sure the panoramic camera was not pointed above the horizon. After sharing the latest news from Mars with Odyssey, Opportunity went into a deep sleep. Plans for the following sol called for the rover to produce a six-frame, time-lapse movie in search of clouds immediately upon wakening.

Odometry

As of sol 1632 (Aug. 26, 2008), Opportunity’s estimated total odometry was 11,770.38 meters (7.30 miles).



Daily Update - 9/9/08
Spirit Still Biding Time -- and Checking the Clock
Spirit Status for sol 1651-1656

To adjust for changes, known as "drift," in synchronicity between Spirit's clock and Earth-based clocks, engineers instructed Spirit to send a "timing beep" to Earth on Martian day, or sol, 1652 (Aug. 26, 2008). For a specifically scheduled duration of time, Spirit radiated a signal to Earth over its low-gain antenna. Rover operators listened for the signal, intending to use any signal loss as a reference point to measure drift. They are currently analyzing whether the timing beep was strong enough for this purpose.

Spirit continues to ride out the Martian winter by doing minimal activities in an attempt to save power. Spirit conducts a modicum of science observations every three to four Martian days, known as sols. Every four sols, the rover sends data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth. Otherwise, Spirit mostly sleeps. This pattern of activity is not likely to change until sunlight on the rover's solar panels consistently generates 250 watt-hours (enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for 2.5 hours) or more. Engineers do not expect that to happen until approximately mid-October, barring wind-related, dust-cleaning events between now and then.

Spirit remains healthy, with all subsystems performing as expected as of the downlink of information from NASA's Odyssey orbiter on sol 1650 (Aug. 24, 2008). Solar-array energy as of the same sol was 232 watt-hours (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for one hour). Tau -- a measure of atmospheric opacity caused by suspended dust -- was 0.274. Spirit is approaching a time of year when the rover has historically seen increased atmospheric dust levels. Given the rover's already low power state, engineers will be on the lookout for dust-related changes in solar power.

Sol-by-sol summary

During the past week, Spirit completed the following activities:

Sol 1651 (Aug. 25, 2008): Spirit measured dust-related changes in atmospheric clarity (tau) with the panoramic camera. Spirit acquired column 17, part 1 of the so-called "Bonestell panorama" of the rover's winter surroundings, using all 13 color filters of the panoramic camera.

Sol 1652: Spirit received new instructions from Earth via the rover's high-gain, X-band antenna and transmitted the requested "timing beep" to Earth.

Sol 1653: Spirit recharged the batteries.

Sol 1654: Spirit measured dust-related changes in atmospheric clarity with the panoramic camera and acquired column 15, part 1 of the full-color Bonestell panorama. Spirit relayed data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth.

Sol 1655: Spirit recharged the batteries.

Sol 1656 (Aug. 30, 2008): Plans called for Spirit to receive a new set of instructions from Earth via the rover's high-gain antenna.

Odometry

As of sol 1654 (Aug. 28, 2008), Spirit’s total odometry remained at 7,528.0 meters (4.7 miles).



Daily Update - 9/4/08
Spirit Still Biding Time
Spirit Status for sol Sols 1643-1650

Spirit continues to ride out the Martian winter by doing minimal activities to conserve power. The rover completes very light science observations every three to four Martian days, known as sols, and relays data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter to be transmitted to Earth every four sols. Otherwise, Spirit mostly sleeps. This pattern is not likely to change until sunlight on the rover's solar array consistently generates 250 watt-hours or more (enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for 2.5 hours). Barring dust-cleaning winds, that is not expected to happen before about mid-October.

Spirit remains healthy, with all subsystems performing as expected as of the Odyssey downlink to Earth on sol 1646 (Aug. 19, 2008). Solar-array energy has dropped back to 229 watt-hours after recently reaching the high 230's. This drop is the result of an increase in tau -- a measure of atmospheric opacity caused by suspended dust -- from 0.19 to 0.29. Spirit is approaching a time of year when the rover has historically seen increased atmospheric dust levels. Given the rover's low power state, engineers will be watching this trend very closely.

Sol-by-sol summary

During the past week, Spirit completed the following activities:

Sol 1643 (Aug. 16, 2008): Spirit monitored atmospheric darkness caused by dust with the panoramic camera. Spirit acquired column 15, part 2 of the so-called "Bonestell panorama," using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera.

Sol 1644: Spirit recharged the batteries.

Sol 1645: Spirit recharged the batteries.

Sol 1646: Engineers on Earth transmitted a new plan of activities at X-band frequencies directly to Spirit's high-gain antenna. Spirit relayed data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth.

Sol 1647: Spirit monitored atmospheric opacity with the navigation camera and acquired column 17, part 2 of the "Bonestell camera," using all 13 color filters of the panoramic camera.

Sol 1648: Spirit recharged the batteries.

Sol 1649: Plans called for Spirit to continue to rest and recharge the batteries.

Sol 1650 (Aug. 24, 2008): Spirit was to receive a new plan of activities transmitted at X-band frequencies directly to Spirit's high-gain antenna. The rover was scheduled to relay data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth.

Odometry

As of sol 1642 (Aug. 15, 2008), Spirit’s total odometry remained at 7,528.0 meters (4.7 miles).



Daily Update - 9/3/08
Opportunity to Exit
Opportunity Status for sol 1600-1606

Like a backpacker hiking up a steep grade, Opportunity has been trying to gain elevation using a "switchback" approach inside "Victoria Crater." The rover's goal was to zigzag back and forth across a steep slope toward an outcrop nicknamed "Nevada," where scientists had hoped to do scientific analysis and collect high-resolution, panoramic images of the cliff face known as "Cape Verde."

It was not to be. On Opportunity's 1,600th Martian day (July 24, 2008) of exploration, the motor on the left front wheel suddenly drew an unexpectedly high level of current that exceeded the maximum limit. The incident was unusual, and the rover immediately halted the drive. A similar event had occurred just prior to the failure of the right front wheel on Spirit, Opportunity's twin on the opposite side of Mars.

On Martian day, or sol, 1602 (July 26, 2008), rover engineers conducted tests of electrical resistance to determine if the motor on Opportunity's left front wheel had a short or an open circuit. They also steered the wheel and looked for unseen, natural obstructions near the wheel. Results from both tests indicated no problems. Engineers next performed a more aggressive set of tests on sol 1604 (July 28, 2008) by commanding Opportunity to rotate the wheel using the motor that generated the anomaly. Again, test results showed no issues.

Engineers have not yet determined what caused the anomaly. Though the wheel appears to have gone back to functioning normally, the condition of its drive motor is uncertain. Because of concerns that the rover might not be able to get out of the crater using only five wheels should the left front wheel fail, team members have decided not to continue toward Nevada. Instead, they plan to finish collecting images of Cape Verde from the rover's current position, then leave the crater as quickly as possible.

During the past week, Opportunity also took several panoramic-camera images of targets along the face of Cape Verde and completed two measurements of argon in the Martian atmosphere using the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer. Scientists use the measurements of changing argon levels to map seasonal air flows.

Otherwise, Opportunity is healthy and all subsystems are performing as expected. The latest available power readings from sol 1605 (July 29, 2008) showed power at 377 watt-hours (400 watt-hours would be enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours).

Sol-by-sol summary

In addition to making daily measurements of dust-related changes in visibility with the panoramic camera, Opportunity completed the following activities:

Sol 1600 (July 25, 2008): While driving toward Nevada, Opportunity's left front wheel drew unexpectedly high electrical current. Opportunity acquired images during and after the drive with the hazard-avoidance and navigation cameras. The rover relayed data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth.

Sol 1601: Opportunity acquired full-color images, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera, of rock exposures dubbed "Playfair," "Eugene Smith," and "King."

Sol 1602: First thing in the morning, Opportunity acquired four, time-lapse, movie frames in search of clouds with the navigation camera. Opportunity conducted diagnostic tests of the left-front-wheel motor in search of electrical shorts or open circuits. The rover also steered the wheel and then acquired images in search of terrain obstructions with the hazard-avoidance and panoramic cameras. After sending data to Odyssey, the rover integrated measurements of atmospheric argon using the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 1603: Opportunity took images with the rear hazard-avoidance cameras and a 5-by-1 tier of images with the navigation camera.

Sol 1604: Upon awakening, Opportunity took thumbnail images of the sky for calibration purposes with the panoramic camera. Opportunity performed more diagnostic tests, rotating the left front wheel and taking images with the hazard-avoidance cameras. After sending data to Odyssey, the rover measured atmospheric argon with the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 1605: In the morning, Opportunity acquired panoramic-camera images of a rock exposure called "Bretz," acquired images with the rear hazard-avoidance cameras, and acquired a 3-by-1 tier and a 5-by-1 tier of images with the navigation camera. The rover acquired new, full-color, panoramic-camera images of Eugene Smith.

Sol 1606 (July 30, 2008): Opportunity took thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera and monitored dust on the rover's mast. With the panoramic camera, the rover completed a sky survey and acquired overlapping, super-resolution images of a rock exposure known as "Siever" (the overlapping images compensate for dust on the camera lens). Opportunity took panoramic-camera images of an outcrop known as "McKee." Plans for the following morning called for the rover to survey the horizon and take spot images of the sky for calibration purposes with the panoramic camera.

Odometry

As of sol 1606 (July 30, 2008), Opportunity’s total odometry was 11,726.21 meters (7.29 miles).

Daily Update - 9/3/08
Heading for the Highway!
Opportunity Status for sol 1607-1613

As stated in last week's report, rover operators have decided it's time for Opportunity to begin exiting "Victoria Crater." Their decision was motivated by concerns about a spike in electrical current drawn by the rover's left front wheel on Martian day, or sol, 1600 (July 24, 2008). Since then, the wheel has returned to normal operation, but engineers and scientists remain concerned that the wheel might come close to failing. If that happens, they would like to have the rover out of the crater.

Originally, Opportunity was to start driving out of the crater over the weekend, on sols 1608-1610 (Aug. 1-Aug. 4, 2008). In the morning of sol 1608, however, a flight software reset prompted Opportunity to reboot its computer and remain in a state called automode. In automode, the rover halts all activity and waits for new instructions from Earth.

On sols 1611-1612 (Aug. 5-6, 2008), engineers recovered the vehicle and again transmitted instructions for continued driving out of the crater. The drive began with some sharp turns to change Opportunity's heading, but was stymied somewhat by the right front wheel when it became slightly mired in loose material on the surface. The following Martian day, sol 1613 (Aug. 7, 2008), rover drivers took a slightly different tack, directing Opportunity to drive backward to extract the wheel from the small hole it had dug. Early analysis indicated that the strategy worked and Opportunity was on track to resume driving out of the crater.

Opportunity remains healthy, with all subsystems performing as expected as of sol 1613.

Sol-by-sol summary

In addition to measuring dust-related changes in atmospheric clarity each day with the panoramic camera and relaying data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth, Opportunity completed the following activities:

Sol 1607 (July 31, 2008): While following instructions for the day's drive, Opportunity documented progress by taking images with the hazard-avoidance and navigation cameras. After communicating with Odyssey, Opportunity went into a deep sleep.

Sol 1608: In the morning, Opportunity surveyed the Martian sky at high Sun with the panoramic camera. Following a flight software reset, Opportunity went into automode, ceasing all activity to await new instructions from Earth.

Sol 1609: Opportunity remained in automode.

Sol 1610: Opportunity remained in automode.

Sol 1611: Upon receiving new instructions from Earth, Opportunity recovered from automode and returned to normal operations. Opportunity acquired a 27-frame, panoramic image mosaic of the cliff known as "Cape Verde" at dusk with the right lens of the panoramic camera. After communicating with Odyssey, Opportunity acquired the other half of the 3-D panorama, a 27-frame image mosaic of the same scene as viewed through the left-hand lens of the panoramic camera.

Sol 1612: In the morning, Opportunity took spot images of the sky for calibration purposes with the panoramic camera, as well as a four-frame movie of potential clouds with the navigation camera. Afterward, Opportunity began to change its heading by making sharp, circular turns with its wheels. The rover completed a "get fine attitude" to pinpoint its position relative to the Sun. To document progress, Opportunity acquired images with the hazard-avoidance cameras and a 2-by-1 tier of images with the navigation camera. The rover acquired a 3-by-1 image mosaic of the terrain ahead with the navigation camera.

Sol 1613 (Aug. 7, 2008): In the morning, Opportunity acquired a 5-by-1 image mosaic with the navigation camera. Opportunity then drove backward to extract its right front wheel from a small hole it had dug into the Martian surface. To document progress, the rover took images with the hazard-avoidance and navigation cameras. Opportunity also acquired a panoramic mosaic of the drive ahead with the navigation camera. Plans for the following morning called for the rover to acquire a six-frame, time-lapse movie in search of clouds with the navigation camera.

Odometry

As of sol 1612 (Aug. 6, 2008), Opportunity’s total odometry remained at 11,726.21 meters (7.29 miles).



Daily Update - 9/3/08
Opportunity Eyes Challenges Ahead
Opportunity Status for sol 1614-1620

Opportunity faces several challenges on the way out of "Victoria Crater" but continues to make steady progress. The first of these is a traverse of approximately 10 meters (30 feet, a little longer than a double-decker bus) across a sandy, 17-degree slope. Opportunity is more than halfway through that part of the journey. The next is a drive across 30 to 50 meters (100 to 160 feet), depending on the route taken, of rocky outcrop. The final leg of the climb will require Opportunity to cross the ripple surrounding the alcove known as "Duck Bay."

Because Opportunity is facing the threat of a drive-motor failure on the left front wheel, the engineering team has been working on pseudo-"Mars time" for the past week to take advantage of extra drive opportunities.

Opportunity remains healthy, with all subsystems performing as expected as of the downlink of information from NASA's Odyssey orbiter on sol 1620 (Aug. 14, 2008).

Sol-by-sol summary

In addition to measuring daily, dust-related changes in atmospheric clarity with the panoramic camera, Opportunity completed the following activities:

Sol 1614 (Aug. 8, 2008): Opportunity took offset, thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera for calibration purposes. With the navigation camera, Opportunity acquired images and six, time-lapse, movie frames in search of clouds. Just before and after ending the day's drive, Opportunity took rearward-looking images with the hazard-avoidance cameras. The rover relayed data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth.

Sol 1615: In the morning, Opportunity took six, time-lapse, movie frames in search of clouds with the navigation camera and monitored dust on the rover mast. Opportunity acquired image mosaics of targets dubbed "Dawson" and "Barrell" using the panoramic camera. The rover relayed data to Odyssey to be transmitted to Earth.

Sol 1616: Opportunity drove 3.05 meters (10.0 feet), stopping mid-drive to acquire images with the navigation camera. The rover acquired images of the surface next to its wheels with the hazard-avoidance cameras as well as two post-drive image mosaics -- a 2-by-1 and 5-by-1 panel -- of its surroundings with the navigation camera.

Sol 1617: In the morning, Opportunity completed a survey of rock clasts with the panoramic camera. Before sending data to Odyssey, the rover acquired images with the rear hazard-avoidance cameras.

Sol 1618: Opportunity acquired a 2-by-2 mosaic of images with the panoramic camera before driving another 3.17 meters (10.4 feet). Just before and after ending the drive, Opportunity took images with the hazard-avoidance and navigation cameras.

Sol 1619: Opportunity took spot images of the sky for calibration purposes with the panoramic camera. After completing the daily assessment of atmospheric dust, Opportunity drove 1.04 meters (3.41 feet). Just before and after ending the drive, the rover took images with the hazard-avoidance cameras of the ground near its wheels. After the drive, Opportunity acquired a 2-by-1 and a 5-by-1 image mosaic of its new location with the navigation camera. The rover communicated with Odyssey before going to sleep.

Sol 1620 (Aug. 14, 2008): In the morning, Opportunity acquired six, time-lapse, movie frames in search of clouds with the navigation camera as well as spot images of the sky with the panoramic camera. Later in the day, Opportunity took thumbnail images of the sky and completed a sky survey at high Sun with the panoramic camera. Plans for the following morning called for Opportunity to acquire panoramic-camera images of a rock target known as "du Toit."

Odometry

As of sol 1619 (Aug. 13, 2008), Opportunity’s total odometry was 11,735.83 meters (7.29 miles).



Daily Update - 9/3/08
Spirit Standing By
Spirit Status for sol 1635-1642

Though Spirit is using less energy to run heaters as Martian winter slowly gives way to spring, dust on the rover's solar arrays continues to block sunlight. Presently about one-third -- 34 percent -- of sunlight reaching the arrays is penetrating the layer of dust to generate electricity. This is a primary reason why Spirit's third winter on the red planet has been more difficult than the first two.

Energy has been steady, averaging 235 watt-hours daily (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for one hour). Tau, a measure of atmospheric dust, and the dust factor, a measure of the amount of dust on the solar arrays, have also been steady at 0.197 and 0.340, respectively. The Tau measurement indicates that 80 to 82 percent of direct sunlight makes it through the atmosphere and reaches the array (the rest is scattered or absorbed, though scattered light also contributes to Spirit's energy).

Currently, Spirit spends one of every four Martian days, or sols, taking science images. The slight energy increase isn't yet sufficient to allow more activity.

Spirit remains healthy and all subsystems are normal as of the latest downlink of information from the Odyssey orbiter on sol 1638 (Aug. 11, 2008).

Sol-by-sol summary

In addition to measuring atmospheric dust with the panoramic camera, Spirit completed the following activities:

Sol 1635 (Aug. 8, 2008): Spirit implemented the runout portion of the master sequence of commands already on board the rover, then received new instructions from Earth via the rover's high-gain antenna. The rover recharged the batteries.

Sol 1636: Spirit implemented the runout portion of the master sequence of commands already on board the rover and recharged the batteries.

Sol 1637: Spirit woke up and listened for potential transmissions from Earth at X-band frequencies using the rover's broad-beam, low-gain antenna. Spirit acquired column 13, part 2 of the so-called "Bonestell panorama," using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera.

Sol 1638: Spirit woke up and listened for signals from Earth at X-band frequencies using the low-gain antenna. Spirit completed the runout portion of the master sequence of commands on board the rover and relayed data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth.

Sol 1639: Spirit woke up and listened for signals from Earth using the rover's low-gain antenna. Engineers on Earth transmitted a new plan of activities at X-band frequencies to the rover's high-gain antenna. Those plans called for Spirit to spend the day surveying the horizon and monitoring the dune field known as "El Dorado" with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1640: Plans called for Spirit to complete the runout portion of the master sequence of commands on board the rover. Spirit was to wake up and listen for signals from Earth using the low-gain antenna and recharge the batteries. To save energy, Spirit was not directed to measure atmospheric opacity, known as Tau.

Sol 1641: Plans called for Spirit to complete the runout portion of the master sequence of commands on board the rover. Spirit was to wake up and listen for signals from Earth using the low-gain antenna and recharge the batteries. Spirit was not scheduled to measure atmospheric opacity.

Sol 1642 (Aug. 15, 2008): Plans called for Spirit to wake up and listen for signals from Earth using the low-gain antenna. Later, the rover was to relay information to Odyssey about the past four sols of activity.

Odometry

As of sol 1638 (Aug. 11, 2008), Spirit’s total odometry remained at 7,528.0 meters (4.7 miles).



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