Status Report

NASA Mars Exploration Rover Updates 21 Feb 2004

By SpaceRef Editor
February 21, 2004
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SPIRIT UPDATE: Down in the Trench – sol 48, Feb 21, 2004

On its 48th sol, ending at 1:16 p.m. Saturday, PST, Spirit maneuvered its robotic arm successfully within the challengingly tight confines of the trench that the rover had dug into the floor of “Laguna Hollow” the preceding sol.

Spirit used the microscopic imager on the arm to take pictures of details in the wall and floor of the trench during the morning. Then Spirit rotated the tool turret at the end of its arm and placed the Moessbauer spectrometer in position to read the mineral composition of the soil on the trench floor. That reading was designed to last about 12 hours, from mid-sol into the martian night. Spirit’s panoramic camera and miniature thermal emission spectrometer were also used during the sol for studies of sky and rocks.

Spirit has been told to wake up and switch from the Moessbauer spectrometer to alpha particle X-ray spectrometer on the trench floor during the pre-dawn hours of the next sol. Later on sol 49 (which ends at 1:56 p.m. Sunday) and early on sol 50, plans call for using those spectrometers on the walls of the trench and making additional observations of the “Laguna Hollow” area. Then Spirit is slated to resume its trek toward the rim of the crater nicknamed “Bonneville,” now estimated to be about 135 meters (443 feet) northeast of the rover’s current location.

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Supersized Science – sol 27, Feb 21, 2004

On sol 27, ending 12:57 a.m. Saturday, PST, Opportunity successfully “supersized” the measurements of the “El Capitan” area with the panoramic camera, miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and microscopic imager. The rover team is analyzing “super resolution” and “super spectral” observations from the science instruments and currently locating the best spots to place the rock abrasion tool.

Opportunity also drove 33 centimeters (13 inches) closer to “El Capitan” to better poise the robotic arm for use of the rock abrasion tool sometime over the next four or five sols, which will be the first use of the rock abrasion tool by Opportunity.

On sol 28, ending at 1:38 a.m. Sunday, PST, plans call for Opportunity to take extensive microscopic images of “El Capitan,” which is a rich science target because it has multiple layers and varied textures on the upper and lower areas of the rocks, implying multiple changes in the geologic history of this area.

The Mars Odyssey orbiter is scheduled to fly over Opportunity during sol 28 with increased data communications capabilities to 256 kilobits per second, which is five times the speed of normal home computer modems.

SpaceRef staff editor.