Status Report

NASA Mars Exploration Rover Updates 24 Feb 2004

By SpaceRef Editor
February 25, 2004
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Spirit Status for sol 51 – Making Ground – posted Feb. 24, 2 pm PST

To inspire a morning "run" on sol 51, which ended at 3:15 p.m.
Tuesday, PST, Spirit woke up to Vangelis’ "Chariots of Fire."
The rover deployed its arm, took microscopic images of the soil in
front of it and then proceeded toward its target, "Middle Ground."
Spirit drove 30 meters (98.4 feet), breaking its own record for a
single-sol traverse. Along the way, Spirit paused to image rocks
on both sides of the drive path with its panoramic camera.

The auto-navigational software that drove the last 12 meters
(39.4 feet) of the traverse to the "Middle Ground" target warned
Spirit that the slope into the hollow that houses it was too steep
(according to parameters set by rover engineers). Spirit then
paced along the rim, looking for a safe way down. Unable to locate
a secure path into the crater before the sol ended, Spirit ended up
facing slightly west of north instead of northeast, as called for by
the plan. This orientation will reduce the amount of data the rover
can return (due to interference between the UHF antenna and
items on the rover equipment deck), but it will be corrected in the
coming sols.

As of today, Spirit has moved 183.25 meters (601.21 feet) and is
now roughly 135 meters (442.91 feet) from its landing site,
Columbia Memorial Station.

The intent for the next several sols will be to drive Spirit into
"Middle Ground" and take a full panorama of the surrounding area
to identify scientifically interesting rocks.

Opportunity Status for sol 30 – A Beautiful Grind – posted Feb. 24, 11:15 am PST

On sol 30, which ended at 2:56 a.m. Tuesday, February 24,
Opportunity performed its first rock abrasion tool operation on a
rock target known as ‘McKittrick Middle Rat’ at the El Capitan
site inside the crater. The tool shaved the rock over a period of
two hours, grinding into a total depth of about 4 millimeters (.16

The auspicious day began with the song ‘Rock’n Me’ by Steve
Miller and some miniature thermal emission spectrometer sky
surveys and sky stares to study the atmosphere. After
completing these activities, Opportunity took a short siesta to
recharge its batteries. The rover has been doing a lot of science
work at night, and the season on Mars is changing to winter, so
the rover has less energy to work with than it did earlier in the
mission. The martian days are getting shorter and the sun angle
is not allowing either rover to power up the solar panels as much
as in the past.

Opportunity woke up from its nap at 11:30 Local Solar Time on
Mars to run through the series of commands required to retract
the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer and close its doors; take
several microscopic images of another nearby rock abrasion tool
target called ‘Guadalupe;’ flip the wrist; take a microscopic image
of "McKittrick Middle Rat;" and place the rock abrasion tool on its
target to run at 13:00 Local Solar Time.

After the abrasion tool was retracted, a series of microscopic
images of the scene were taken, and the alpha particle X-ray
spectrometer was successfully placed into the abrasion tool’s
hole late in the day.

Some additional panoramic camera, miniature thermal emission
spectrometer readings, and hazard avoidance camera imagery
was completed through the day.

The plan for sol 31, which will end at 3:36 a.m. Wednesday,
February 25, is to continue getting long Moessbauer readings of
the rock abrasion tool hole and to prepare the tool for more work
again on sol 33 or 34.

SpaceRef staff editor.