Mars Exploration Rover Update - May 5, 2006

SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Begins First Interplanetary Layer-by-Layer Soil
Analysis - sol 828-834, May 05, 2006:

Spirit is healthy and continuing to make progress on the rover’s winter
campaign of scientific experiments. This week Spirit continued work on
the full-color, 360-degree “McMurdo panorama.” The finished panorama
will combine 27 columns of images. Scientists anticipate that Spirit
will have finished collecting the first 10 of those columns by Martian
day, or sol, 834 (May 8, 2006). Spirit also continued studies of two
soil targets nicknamed “Progress” and “Halley.”

A winter soil analysis experiment will involve a multi-step process of
removing the Moessbauer spectrometer from the target, flipping the
joint at the end of the robotic arm to put it in a better position for
exchanging tools, re-touching the target with the Moessbauer to confirm
precise placement, and exchanging tools from the Moessbauer
to the rock abrasion tool. Using the brush at the end of the rock
abrasion tool, Spirit will remove a layer of soil up to 1 millimeter
thick (the thickness of a dime). During brushing, the rover will take a
movie of the procedure with the right lens of the hazard-avoidance
camera. After the brushing, the rover will acquire a microscopic image
of the freshly exposed surface as well as a color image using all 13
filters of the panoramic camera. The rover will then start the process
again and remove another layer of soil.

Spirit is also poised to begin a five-month, remote, photometric study
of seasonal changes in surface properties of soil exposed in the

As the newly arrived Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter continues the
aerobraking phase of its mission (using friction from the Martian
atmosphere to refine its orbit), high-frequency X-band communications
directly between Spirit and Earth will not always be available. On sol
830 (May 4, 2006), NASA’s Odyssey spacecraft began transmitting
communications to Spirit at UHF frequencies.

Sol-by-sol summary

Sol 828 (May 2, 2006): Spirit conducted remote sensing and completed
acquisition of column 8 of the McMurdo panorama.

Sol 829: Spirit conducted a third day of Moessbauer spectrometry of the
Progress soil target, for a total of 69 hours of analysis of the target
with the instrument.

Sol 830: Spirit began progressive brushing of loose soil for the first
time and collected microscopic images.

Sol 831: Spirit conducted remote sensing, acquired column 9 of the
McMurdo pan, and completed an 18-hour analysis of Progress with the
alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 832: Plans called for Spirit to acquire microscopic images of

Sol 833: Plans called for Spirit to conduct remote sensing, acquire
column 10 of the McMurdo pan, and complete a second 18-hour study of
Progress with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 834 (May 8, 2006): Plans called for Spirit to continue remote
sensing studies and begin monitoring changes in surface properties of
soil exposed in the rover’s tracks.


As of sol 831 (May 5, 2006), Spirit’s total odometry remained at
6,876.18 meters (4.27 miles).