SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Breaks Free in Race for Survival - sol 1384-1389, November 30, 2007:
In typical unflagging fashion, Spirit has managed to break free of piles of soil built up around the wheels in a low, sandy area that the rover’s handlers have nicknamed “Tartarus,” after a deep, underworld dungeon in Greek mythology. Team members are pulling out all the stops to get Spirit to a winter location where, based on solar power projections, the rover has a chance at survival.
As the crow flies, that spot is 240.5 meters (130.8 feet) away. During the next few weeks, Spirit’s journey to “Winter Haven 3” is expected to be no less difficult, requiring the rover to maneuver across a sandy, rocky valley along the western edge of “Home Plate.”
During Spirit’s 14 Martian days in Tartarus, the rover’s trials were reminiscent of those of the previous Martian winter, when Spirit spent 12 sols churning up white material in a sandy area while trying to reach the slopes of “McCool Hill.”
Guided by experienced, interplanetary drivers, the robotic geologist Spirit escaped Tartarus on sol 1388 (Nov. 28, 2007) and drove 3.43 meters (11.3 feet). This was a significant distance, given that Spirit’s previous two drives were measured in centimeters (inches). The drive took the rover south away from Tartarus to look for another path around the area before driving north once again.
Spirit’s handlers will be working non-stop during the weekend to take advantage of seasonal sunlight available for driving before solar power levels drop further. At present, the rover has about 310 watt-hours of power each day (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for one hour).
In addition to receiving morning instructions directly from Earth via the high-gain antenna, sending evening data to Earth at UHF frequencies via the Odyssey orbiter, and measuring atmospheric dust levels with the panoramic camera, Spirit completed the following activities:
Sol 1384 (Nov. 24, 2007): Spirit managed to drive 6.98 meters (22.9 feet). The rover took post-drive images with the hazard avoidance cameras and a mosaic of images with the navigation camera. The next morning, Spirit measured atmospheric dust with the navigation camera and surveyed the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.
Sol 1385: Spirit spent the day recharging the battery. The following morning, Spirit acquired movie frames in search of dust devils with the navigation camera and completed a survey of rock clasts with the panoramic camera.
Sol 1386: Spirit drove only 0.25 meters (10 inches) and took images with the hazard avoidance cameras. The following morning, the rover acquired full-color images of Tartarus using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera.
Sol 1387: Spirit drove only 0.14 meter (5.5 inches) and acquired post-drive images with the navigation camera. The next morning, Spirit surveyed atmospheric dust with the navigation camera and acquired additional, full-color images of Tartarus with the panoramic camera.
Sol 1388: Spirit drove 3.43 meters (11.3 feet), finally breaking free from the piles of soil built up around each of its wheels. The rover acquired post-drive images with the hazard avoidance cameras.
Sol 1389 (Nov. 29, 2007): After a morning of surveying atmospheric dust and taking additional full-color images of Tartarus, plans called for Spirit to complete a photo shoot with the navigation and hazard avoidance cameras, survey atmospheric dust with the navigation camera, and acquire thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera.
As of sol 1388 (Nov. 28, 2007), Spirit’s total odometry was 7438.82 meters (4.62 miles).
OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Multi-Tasking Rover Supports Multiple Missions - sol 1361-1367, Nov 30, 2007:
Opportunity continues to investigate the rock exposure known as “Smith2” in the second of three bathtub ring-like layers of rock inside “Victoria Crater” as well as test communications for Phoenix, NASA’s next mission to Mars. The rover is healthy and all subsystems are normal.
On Sol 1361 (Nov. 22, 2007), Opportunity performed diagnostic tests of the shoulder joint that controls side-to-side movement of the robotic arm, known as Joint 1. The joint had stalled on Sol 1359 (Nov. 20, 2007) while the rover waas taking measurements with the microscopic imager. The tests revealed no anomalous readings. Opportunity acquired the rest of the microscopic images of Smith 2 on Sol 1366 (Nov. 27, 2007).
After the diagnostic tests, Opportunity studied the elemental chemistry of Smith2 with the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer and the composition and abundance of iron-bearing minerals in the outcrop with the Moessbauer spectrometer.
Working with NASA’s Reconnaissance Orbiter, Opportunity successfully tested UHF radio transmissions in support of entry, descent, landing, and surface operations of the Phoenix mission, now en route to the red planet. On Sol 1367 (Nov. 28, 2007), the rover and the orbiter used the international standard known as the Proximity-1 protocol for spacecraft data transfers.
Phoenix is expected to arrive at Mars on May 25, 2008. Radio signals from Phoenix may also be receivable directly via the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in Virginia, the world’s largest, fully steerable radio telescope.
In addition to morning uplinks directly from Earth via the rover’s high-gain antenna, evening downlinks to Earth via the Odyssey orbiter at UHF frequencies, and standard measurements of atmospheric opacity caused by dust using the panoramic and navigation cameras, Opportunity completed the following activities:
Sol 1361 (Nov. 22, 2007): Opportunity performed diagnostic tests of the robotic arm, placed the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer on the target known as Smith2, and collected 6 hours of data with the instrument. The rover went into a mini-deep sleep and upon awakening the next morning, scanned the sky for clouds with the navigation camera.
Sol 1362: Opportunity placed the Moessbauer spectrometer on Smith2 and spent 10 hours collecting data with the instrument. The rover went into a mini-deep sleep and the next morning, searched for clouds with the navigation camera.
Sol 1363: Opportunity restarted the Moessbauer spectrometer and collected 12 hours of compositional data with the instrument. The rover acquired a mosaic of images that are part of a panoramic view of a light-toned exposure of sedimentary rock known as “Pettijohn.” The next morning, the rover scanned the sky for clouds with the navigation camera.
Sol 1364: Opportunity restarted the Moessbauer spectrometer and collected an additional 11 hours of compositional data from Smith2 with the instrument. The rover scanned the sky for clouds with the navigation camera.
Sol 1365: Opportunity restarted the Moessbauer spectrometer and collected 12 hours of compositional data from Smith2 with the instrument. The rover acquired “Part 3” of the panoramic-camera mosaic of Pettijohn.
Sol 1366: Opportunity switched tools from the Moessbauer spectrometer to the microscopic imager and acquired microscopic images looking up at the sky for calibration purposes. The rover also took external images of the microscopic imager with the hazard avoidance cameras. Opportunity then acquired stereo microscopic images of Smith2. Opportunity switched tools from the microscopic imager to the rock abrasion tool and acquired “Part 4” of the Pettijohn panorama. The next morning, Opportunity scanned the sky for clouds with the navigation camera, surveyed the horizon with the panoramic camera, and took spot images of the sky with the panoramic camera.
Sol 1367 (Nov. 28, 2007): Plans called for Opportunity to scan the sky for clouds with the navigation camera and take thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera.
As of sol 1366 (Nov. 27, 2007), Opportunity’s total odometry remained at 11,584.32 meters (7.2 miles), where the rover has been stationed since the last drive on Sol 1329 (Oct. 20, 2007).