As Martian winter ebbs, there is more energy to power Spirit and Opportunity. Find out what our intrepid rovers are exploring.


Hi, I'm Ashley Stroupe, here with your Rover Report. I'm one of the rover drivers for Spirit and Opportunity. Normally, I work around the corner in the sequencing room, but today I'm here today in the Mission Support Area to update you on our intrepid rovers.

They're four-and-a-half years old and still exploring new places on Mars. Right now, it's the heart of winter in the southern hemisphere of the red planet. This means short days and low power levels, which makes it tough on solar powered rovers.  It's the hardest on Spirit because her solar panels are so dirty. She's barely able to make enough power to keep herself safe and warm. We've had to really reduce her activity. She can only call home occasionally, take a few weather observations, and a few pictures here and there.

We've used some of the pictures that Spirit has taken to put together a beautiful panorama of "Home Plate."

But fortunately we are past the worst of it.  The solstice has occurred, the days are getting longer and the power levels are increasing. So we're beginning to look forward to Spirit's next science campaign, which will be exploring a very interesting hill far to the south of us called "Von Braun."     Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Opportunity is facing her own challenges. She's studying a huge crater called "Victoria," and right now, she's at a base of a cliff driving in very difficult terrain, exploring this Cape Verde face and giving the scientists an unprecedented view of the sandstone layers that form the walls of this crater.

Just like we've had to learn to drive Spirit again with a broken wheel, we've had to learn how to drive Opportunity with a broken arm. A faulty shoulder joint prevents us from being able to safely tuck the arm up underneath the rover, while she's driving, and instead we have to drive her with it extended out in front.

We've had to do a lot of testing here on Earth to learn how to drive in that configuration and keep the arm safe without bumping into rocks or shaking it too badly and causing it damage. Still, the testing we've done has given us confidence that we can drive the rover safely in this configuration
even in this difficult terrain.

Recently, Opportunity did experience a stall on her left front wheel and the team is doing some diagnostics to figure out what may have caused this problem and if we need to do anything in order to help fix it. The whole team right now is starting to look forward to the spring when the power levels are going to increase with the longer days. Also spring should bring some winds, which may clean some of this dirt off the solar panels, which is going to hopefully continue to extend the life spans of these magnificent explorers. I'm Ashley Stroupe and this is your Rover Report.

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