Status Report

NASA MER 2003/Athena Update 23 Aug 2003

By SpaceRef Editor
August 25, 2003
Filed under , , ,
NASA MER 2003/Athena Update 23 Aug 2003

Boy, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. We’re still pulling together
all the things we learned from our last operations readiness test,
and already it seems like the next one is almost upon us. These
things will be coming at us fast and furious between now and

In the most recent one, we operated one of the rovers for five
straight simulated martian days, or sols, in the big indoor Mars
facility at JPL. It went amazingly well, considering it was the
first time we’d ever tried it. Unknown to us, the engineering team
down in the test facility had glued pennies to about half a dozen of
the many rocks that are scattered about the scene. We first spotted
a couple of them in Navcam images, and then we zeroed in on them
with Pancam images. Deciding that they’d be interesting targets to
go after (they had, after all, been put there to tempt us), we drove
the rover over to one of them, reached the arm out, and got data on
it with all of the arm-mounted instruments.

This sounds deceptively simple, but in fact it was astonishing to
have a machine as complicated as ours accomplish something that
complex on the first try. And to prove that we really did it, here’s
the Microscopic Imager picture of the penny itself. (The
strange "flaring" of the image along the upper left edge of the
penny comes from having a very shiny metal edge in a brightly-lit
room… this camera wasn’t designed for shiny metal surfaces!) What
we’ve proven, for the first time, is that we can use some of our
instruments to pick a small target from a distance, drive over to
it, and investigate it in more detail with the other instruments.

Now we just have to practice this stuff over and over and over again
until we get extremely good at it.

SpaceRef staff editor.