Status Report

NASA MER Mission Update by Steve Squyres December 23, 2005

By SpaceRef Editor
December 28, 2005
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NASA MER Mission Update by Steve Squyres December 23, 2005

Things have been going well at Gusev. We’ve spent most of the past week looking at a rock right next to Comanche that we call Comanche Spur. Like everything we’ve seen since we’ve descended off of Haskin Ridge, Comanche Spur has undergone very little alteration and has a lot of olivine in it. But the composition is different from what we saw at Seminole and Algonquin, so we seem to have yet another rock type at Gusev.

With the Comanche campaign wrapping up, it was decision time… Allegeny Ridge or El Dorado? We had a long meeting about that at mid-week, and the consensus decision was to head for El Dorado. We should begin the drive on about Sol 704, and we’re hoping it will go quickly. Expect Spirit to do a lot of driving and (except at El Dorado) not much IDD work in the weeks ahead.

Over at Meridiani, we have now gotten pretty good at operating our balky arm without problems. And we’ve been at Olympia long enough now that it’s probably now the best-imaged place on the entire planet. With all that imaging we’ve identified several other nearby targets that we’d really like to take a look at. Unfortunately, though, it’s still going to be a little while before we can get moving again. While we know how to work the arm, we’re still figuring out the best way to stow it. We no longer want to stow it under the front of the vehicle, since a complete motor failure there would incapacitate the arm permanently. Instead, we’re looking at “stowing” it somewhere out in front of the vehicle. That sounds easy, but it’s something really new… we’ve never tried driving with the arm deployed, on either planet, so we’ve got to be very careful. Being very careful means we have to do a lot of calculations and tests on Earth before we’re ready to try it on Mars. So it’ll still be a little while before we’re ready to drive anywhere.

And a final note: If you want to know about our take on water at Meridiani, there is one good place to read about it… the papers that we recently published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Check them out.

SpaceRef staff editor.