Status Report

MER 2003/Athena Update 14 Dec 2002

By SpaceRef Editor
December 16, 2002
Filed under , ,
MER 2003/Athena Update 14 Dec 2002

We’re deep into thermal vac with the MER-2 rover now, and so far it’s
going great. “Thermal vac” is short for thermal vacuum testing, and
it’s one of the toughest tests we have between now and launch.

We started on Thursday with the rover in the test chamber, all folded
up the way it’ll be when we land. We took the pressure and
temperature in the chamber down to just what they’ll be like on Mars.
And then we put the rover to work. Out came the solar panels. Up went
the mast and the antenna. The rover stood up, swung its wheels into
place, released its arm, and was ready for action.

One of the first things we did once the rover was ready — and one of
the first things we’ll do on Mars — was take a whole bunch of
pictures. This one shows the Pancam calibration target, also known as
the sundial. There are a lot of lights in the test chamber, so the
central post doesn’t cast just one shadow here like it will on Mars.
But this gives a real sense of what our sundial pictures will look

Of course, what we’re really going to Mars to take pictures of is
Martian rocks. We didn’t have any Martian rocks to put in the test
chamber, but we did cut some nice slabs of a bunch of different Earth
rocks and take some pictures of them as well.

Thermal vac isn’t over yet… in fact, in many ways it’s just getting
started. We’ll be at it all this coming week too: testing the rover’s
arm, taking more pictures, and — especially — putting Mini-TES to

SpaceRef staff editor.