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Opportunity Turns Up The Amps

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by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (SPX) May 28, 2007
Opportunity's electrical supply returned to levels not seen since the rover first arrived on Mars. Peak electrical current from the rover's solar arrays climbed above 4.0 amps and remained there for most of the week as a result of three recent dust-cleaning events. The last time electrical current reached similar levels was on sol 18 (Feb. 10, 2004)!

Meanwhile, Opportunity is healthy and continues to circumnavigate "Victoria Crater" back toward "Duck Bay." On the rover's 1,163rd sol, or Martian day of exploration (May 2, 2007), Opportunity drove 90 meters (296 feet). The following sol the rover drove toward the rim of "Cape of Good Hope" to acquire high-quality, super-resolution images of the western face of "Cape St. Vincent." These images will enable scientists to better characterize detailed cross-bedding in the lower stratigraphic unit.

Opportunity also successfully tested a new procedure for using the rock abrasion tool to grind and seek a surface of scientific interest. At a rock target known as "Viva La Rata" ("Long Live the Rat"), the rover used software to bypass a check that was causing the grind encoder to fail. Because the RAT can no longer find the rock surface by seek/scan, the rover used the grinding motion to do a "grind/scan." On sol 1166 (May 4, 2007), Opportunity performed a successful grind/scan to find the target surface. Then, on sol 1168 (May 7, 2007), the rover used the rock abrasion tool to brush Viva la Ratta.

On sol 1169 (May 8, 2007), Opportunity postponed a planned drive to study some cobbles because of a joint 1 stall that occurred while stowing the robotic arm before the drive. This stall was similar to previous joint 1 stalls. On sol 1170 (May 9, 2007), Opportunity reached its destination, an outcrop known as "Madrid/Guadarrama."

Sol-by-sol summary:

In addition to daily observations that included measuring atmospheric dust with the panoramic camera and surveying the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, Opportunity completed the following activities:

Sol 1164 (May 3, 2007): Opportunity stowed the robotic arm, drove approximately 15 meters (49 feet) onto "Cape of Good Hope," acquired hazard avoidance camera images just before and after the end of the drive, and unstowed the robotic arm. The rover acquired a 3-by-1 mosaic of "Cape of Good Hope" as well as other images of the terrain with the navigation camera after the drive.

Sol 1165: Opportunity began the sol by acquiring a timed movie in search of clouds, with successive images taken after a two-minute delay. The rover completed a sky survey at high sun using the panoramic camera and measured dark current (signals received when not exposed to light) while both hot and warm. The rover enjoyed a deep sleep.

Sol 1166: Upon awakening, Opportunity surveyed the sky with the panoramic camera and acquired panoramic camera images of Cape St. Vincent. While acquiring stereo microscopic images of Viva la Rata prior to grinding the rock surface, Joint 1 stalled. The rover conducted a touch test on Viva La Rata with the rock abrasion tool and searched for clouds with the navigation camera.

Sol 1167: In the morning, Opportunity monitored dust on the rover mast and acquired thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera. The rover acquired super-resolution images of Cape St. Vincent with the panoramic camera and searched for clouds with the navigation camera.

Sol 1168: Opportunity completed a morning survey of the horizon with the panoramic camera and brushed Viva La Rata with the rock abrasion tool. Following that, the rover acquired stereo microscopic images of the brushed surface and studied it with the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer. Opportunity also surveyed a target known as "Rodrigues" with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and acquired panoramic camera images of the terrain ahead. Opportunity scanned the sky for clouds with the navigation camera.

Sol 1169: Opportunity acquired sky images with the panoramic camera and checked for drift (changes with time) in the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. The rover did not stow the robotic arm as planned after having moved it into ready position because of the Joint 1 stall. Also as a result of the stall, the rover did not drive backward to adjust its position and proceed to "Madrid" as planned. Opportunity acquired images of Viva La Rata with the panoramic camera and post-drive images with both the panoramic and navigation cameras. The rover searched for clouds with the navigation camera.

Sol 1170 (May 8, 2007): Opportunity acquired post-drive images with the navigation camera, conducted a diagnostic test of the robotic arm, stowed the robotic arm, acquired panoramic camera images of "Madrid," unstowed the robotic arm, and acquired images with the navigation and panoramic cameras. The rover scanned the sky for clouds and conducted a survey of rock clasts with the panoramic camera.


As of sol 1170 (May 8, 2007), Opportunity's total odometry was 10,784.94 meters (6.7 miles).

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Seeking Mars Survival Secrets
Princeton NJ (SPX) May 23, 2007
David Smith always wondered whether other planets might harbor life, so when he actually got the opportunity to investigate, he jumped at it. His decision launched him on a year-long mission, leading him to the Kennedy Space Center and back. Now, after long months exploring whether Earth bacteria can survive on the surface of Mars, he has returned with findings that could help NASA plan better missions to the red planet, and may even get his senior thesis published in a scientific journal.

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