Status Report

NASA Mars Exploration Rover Update: Clear Skies at ‘Home Plate’

By SpaceRef Editor
April 30, 2008
Filed under , , ,
NASA Mars Exploration Rover Update: Clear Skies at ‘Home Plate’

Spirit Status for sol 1511-1516

Spirit is currently experiencing the clearest skies seen by either of NASA’s two Mars Exploration Rovers. On sol 1511 (April 3, 2008), Tau measurements of atmospheric dust hit an all-time low of 0.127. By sol 1516 (April 8, 2008), this measurement had increased slightly to 0.170. The low Tau values have held power levels at around 250 watt-hours (enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for about 2.5 hours). If Tau were not so cooperative, Spirit would be getting only about 200 watt-hours of energy, compelling the rover’s handlers to disable the heaters on the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and take other measures to conserve power.

The engineering team still expects to implement energy-conservation strategies, but not for several weeks. Meanwhile, Spirit continues to make progress on remote-sensing activities, scientific investigations, and the “Bonestell panorama” of the rover’s view from the north rim of “Home Plate.”

Sol-by-sol summary

To conserve energy, mission planners have restricted the number of sols on which Spirit receives direct-from-Earth instructions via the rover’s high-gain antenna and transmits data to Earth via the Odyssey orbiter. Spirit continues, on a daily basis, to monitor atmospheric dust levels with the panoramic camera and survey the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. In addition, during the past week, Spirit completed the following activities:

Sol 1511 (April 3, 2008): Spirit took thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1512: Spirit gathered compositional data from the soil target known as “Arthur C. Harmon” using the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer. The rover used the panoramic camera to acquire super-resolution images of a target informally named “Arthur C. Clarke.”

Sol 1513: Spirit acquired column 7, part 3 of the full-color Bonestell panorama, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera.

Sol 1514: Spirit pointed the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer skyward to measure argon gas in the Martian atmosphere and acquired stability images of the rover’s 30-degree tilt. The rover transmitted data to Odyssey and spent about 4.5 hours measuring atmospheric argon. Spirit also acquired column 8, part 1 of the Bonestell panorama and took spot images of the sky for calibration purposes with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1515: Spirit surveyed the sky with the panoramic camera and monitored dust on the panoramic camera mast assembly.

Sol 1516: (April 8, 2008): Spirit acquired column 8, part 2 of the Bonestell panorama and surveyed the horizon with the panoramic camera.


As of sol 1516 (April 8, 2008), Spirit’s total odometry remained at 7,528.07 meters (almost 4.68 miles).

SpaceRef staff editor.