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Opportunity Proceeds With Caution On Sandy Slopes

Opportunity is healthy and all subsystems are performing as expected.
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (SPX) Feb 29, 2008
After recovering from a stall in Joint 1, which controls the compass orientation of the shoulder on the rover's robotic arm, Opportunity is proceeding carefully to its next target, an exposure of layered rocks known as "Gilbert." Opportunity ran the usual diagnostic tests for this sort of fault, which occurred while the rover was studying a rock target known as "Buckland," and successfully placed the Moessbauer spectrometer on the target on Sol 1437 (Feb. 8, 2008).

On Sol 1438 (Feb. 9, 2008), the rover's handlers decided to relinquish further scientific studies of the target and proceed instead with a drive toward Gilbert. As this meant the rover would wander into new terrain, the team created a series of steps to allow Opportunity to characterize the surroundings along the way.

One of these steps involved placing the front two wheels on an area of soil to leave a scuff on the surface and backing up to take images of the exposed area. On Sol 1438, however, prior to reaching the intended soil area, Opportunity aborted the drive. The rover completed the second planned "scuffing" on Sol 1441 (Feb. 12, 2008).

This time the scuff was successful, though it revealed an interesting surprise -- Opportunity's right front wheel dug in much more than the rover's handlers had expected, highlighting the need to proceed cautiously toward Gilbert.

Because Opportunity was unable to relay all of the diagnostic data to Earth at one time because the volume of data was more than could be accommodated, the rover's handlers decided that the prudent course of action was to wait one planning cycle before having Opportunity proceed with the drive.

On Sol 1443 (Feb. 14, 2008), Opportunity completed a diagnostic examination of the grind bit on the rock abrasion tool and collected a mosaic of microscopic images of a rock target dubbed "Lyell Exeter," commemorating the college attended by geologist Sir Charles Lyell in the early 1800s, as well as compositional data using the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer.

Opportunity is healthy and all subsystems are performing as expected. The latest available measurements on Sol 1443 showed a power level of 469 watt-hours (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for 1 hour). Plans for the coming weekend called for the rover to proceed with the first of a two-step drive toward Gilbert.

Sol-by-sol summary:

In addition to receiving instructions directly from Earth via the rover's high-gain antenna, relaying data to Earth via the UHF antenna on the Mars Odyssey orbiter, and assessing atmospheric dust levels with the panoramic camera, Opportunity completed the following activities:

Sol 1437 (Feb. 8, 2008): Opportunity recovered from last week's stall of Joint 1 on the robotic arm, succesfully placing the Moessbauer spectrometer on the surface of the rock target dubbed "Buckland" and spending 12 hours studying iron-bearing minerals with the instrument. The rover acquired a 2-by-1 mosaic of images of dunes with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1438: Opportunity surveyed and took spot images of the sky with the panoramic camera. The rover acquired movie frames in search of clouds with the navigation camera before rolling a short distance to get into position for a photo session, during which the rover took full-color images of Buckland, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera.

Opportunity then drove in the direction of Gilbert and acquired a mid-drive, 3-by-1 image mosaic of Gilbert using the panoramic camera. The rover collected a 2-by-2 mosaic of post-drive images with the navigation camera, took images with the hazard avoidance cameras, and unstowed the robotic arm. Opportunity was unable to complete a planned soil scuff followed by a backward drive.

Sol 1439: After awakening, Opportunity took spot images of the sky, surveyed the horizon, and surveyed the sky at high Sun with the panoramic camera. Opportunity then completed a systematic ground survey, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera. After relaying data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter as it passed overhead, the rover studied argon gas in the Martian atmosphere with the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 1440: Upon receiving enough solar energy to wake up autonomously, Opportunity took thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera. The rover searched for morning clouds in movie frames taken with the navigation camera, took spot images of the sky with the panoramic camera, and monitored dust accumulation on the mast assembly. Opportunity made additional measurements of atmospheric argon with the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer after transmitting data to Odyssey.

Sol 1441: Upon awakening, the rover surveyed the sky with the panoramic camera. Opportunity then acquired movie frames in search of morning clouds with the navigation camera. The rover stowed the robotic arm, scuffed the soil with its wheels while driving toward Gilbert, and acquired a 3-by-1 mosaic of post-drive images of Gilbert with the panoramic camera as well as a 2-by-2 mosaic of navigation camera images and hazard avoidance camera images. Opportunity unstowed the robotic arm.

Sol 1442: Upon awakening, Opportunity took spot images of the sky and surveyed the horizon with the panoramic camera. The rover also surveyed the sky at high Sun with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1443 (Feb. 14, 2008): Upon awakening, Opportunity took thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera and acquired movie frames in search of clouds with the navigation camera. The rover surveyed the grinding bit on the rock abrasion tool and acquired a 2-by-2-by-14 stack of stereo microscopic images of Lyell Exeter.

Opportunity placed the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer on Lyell Exeter, acquired a 2-by-1 mosaic of images of Gilbert with the navigation camera, and, after sending data to Odyssey, collected compositional data with the spectrometer. The following morning, Opportunity was to acquire full-color images, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera, of the area exposed by the rover's wheels and survey the sky at high Sun with the panoramic camera.

Odometry: As of sol 1443 (Feb. 14, 2008), Opportunity's total odometry was 11,668.08 meters (7.25 miles).

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Spirit Inches Downward Into Final Winter Perch
Pasadena CA (JPL) Feb 20, 2008
Spirit is tiptoeing ever so carefully down the north edge of the elevated volcanic plateau known as "Home Plate." Having completed a 4-centimeter (1.6-inch) drive on sol 1463 (Feb. 13, 2008), the rover's current northerly tilt is 27.1 degrees. Spirit's handlers plan to have the rover drive another 4 centimeters on sol 1464 (Feb. 14, 2008).









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