Status Report

NASA Mars Exploration Rover Status 5 January 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
January 5, 2006
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NASA Mars Exploration Rover Status 5 January 2006

SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Meets ‘Gallant Knight’ – sol 701-707, Jan 05, 2006:

Spirit is in excellent health after a busy holiday weekend. The rover team made several three-sol plans in single working days so that while the rover was busy, the crew could take the holidays off (though with a few late nights on the work days).

After completing work on an outcrop called “Comanche,” Spirit entered a dune field called “El Dorado,” where the rover began digging in a little and looking closely for evidence about whether the deposited material there originated locally or globally. All of the week’s objectives were achieved, including some ambitious drive sols that exceeded the team’s expectations.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

Sols 701 to 703 (Dec. 23 to Dec. 25, 2005): Spirit completed a long Moessbauer spectrometer integration on the brushed target “Palomino,” along with an overnight reading by the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer on the same target. The panoramic camera took a 16-frame mosaic from Comanche over two sols. That camera and the miniature thermal emission spectrometer observed targets in the immediate vicinity with informal names “Cheyenne,” “Apache,” “Kickapoo,” “Chickasaw,” and “Winnebago.” On sol 703, microscopic images were taken of a fin-shaped feature on Comanche.

Sol 704 and 705: Sol 704’s activities wrapped up the work on Comanche. Spirit drove toward El Dorado on both sols 704 and 705 as part of a three-sol plan starting on sol 703. The first driving sol began with 22 meters (72 feet) of directed driving followed by autonomous navigation toward the dune fields. The second driving sol would not have the benefit of humans in the loop, and so was purely autonomous navigation, picking up on the heels of the previous sol to get Spirit within striking range of El Dorado. The team expected to get perhaps 80 to 90 meters (263 to 295 feet) from the two sols of driving. However, by the end of Sol 705, Spirit had driven 118 meters (387 feet), and was about a one-sol drive away from El Dorado.

Sol 706: This was the week’s only normal, single-sol plan, which allowed engineers and scientists to plan a drive into El Dorado and to respond on the next sol with a plan to attack the science objectives there. The team expected to use the subsequent three-sol plan to trench in El Dorado and the three-sol plan after that to examine the trench. In order to prepare for the trench, the team planned a scuff at the end of the drive. The scuff was to be just a third of a wheel turn to push up some of the sandy material. That would give engineers some data on the consistency of the material so the team would know how long to trench.

Again the rover drivers came through, and Spirit successfully drove 38 meters (125 feet) right into the dunes of El Dorado on sol 706. The rover got a nice little mound and cut into a dune with the wheel scuff. The science team took a look at the scuff and decided it was in fact good enough for the science objectives without a need for trenching, so the team ended up three sols ahead of the game.

Sol 707 (Dec. 29): The microscopic imager inspected the scuff in El Dorado on the targets “Gallant Knight” and “Pilgrim.” Spirit also began a long Moessbauer spectrometer integration on Pilgrim. As of sol 707, Spirit’s total odometry was 5,829 meters (3.62 miles).

SpaceRef staff editor.