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Spirit Advances Toward Midwinter

Spirit is healthy and all subsystems are performing as expected.
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (SPX) Apr 10, 2008
Seasons are about twice as long on Mars as on Earth and are offset relative to Earth because Mars takes about twice as long to complete one orbit around the Sun. At Spirit's location, the fall equinox -- the start of fall, when night and day are equal in length -- arrived Dec. 12, 2007. The winter solstice -- the time of year with the shortest day -- will arrive June 25, 2008.

Solar array energy has varied from 244 watt-hours to 256 watt-hours, averaging 250.4 watt-hours for this period (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for one hour). Tau, the measure of atmospheric dust, has averaged 0.16, varying by only a hundredth. The dust factor has been nearly constant at 0.35, meaning 35 percent of the sunlight reaching the arrays penetrates the dust layer to make electricity.

A low Tau is good because it means the skies are fairly clear; a low dust factor is bad because it means the solar arrays are coated with a fair amount of dust.

Astronomers use the symbol L(s) -- pronounced L-sub-s -- to denote how far Mars has progressed in its orbit around the Sun. If you imagine looking down at the solar system, with the Sun in the middle and Mars orbiting around it, L(s) gives the location of Mars. By definition, L(s) = 0 degrees when the Sun crosses the Martian equator. This is the first day of Martian spring, the vernal equinox, when night and day are equal in length, in the northern hemisphere.

It's also the first day of fall, the autumnal equinox, in the southern hemisphere. At Spirit's location in Mars' southern hemisphere, the season is currently mid- to late fall, and L(s) is about 55 degrees, roughly equivalent to Nov. 17 in Earth's northern hemisphere and May 18 in Earth's southern hemisphere. L(s) will equal 90 degrees at the time of the winter solstice.

Spirit is healthy and all subsystems are performing as expected.

Sol-by-sol summary

To conserve energy, mission planners have restricted the number of sols on which Spirit receives direct-from-Earth instructions via the rover's high-gain antenna and transmits data to Earth via the Odyssey orbiter. Spirit continues, on a daily basis, to monitor atmospheric dust levels with the panoramic camera, check for drift (changes with time) in the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and survey the sky and ground with the instrument. In addition, during the past week, Spirit completed the following activities:

Sol 1504 (March 27, 2008): Spirit calibrated the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and acquired a microscopic image of the capture magnet.

Sol 1505: Upon awakening, Spirit took spot images of the sky for calibration purposes with the panoramic camera and acquired column 6, part 1 of the full-color "Bonestell panorama" using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera. The rover also recharged the battery.

Sol 1506: Spirit acquired column 6, part 2 of the Bonestell panorama and monitored dust on the panoramic-camera mast assembly. Spirit looked at the miniature thermal emission spectrometer for calibration purposes, acquired microscopic images of the solar panel, and acquired images of the external magnets, which capture magnetic dust particles, using the panoramic camera.

Sol 1507: Spirit acquired column 6, part 3 of the full-color Bonestell panorama and recharged the battery.

Sol 1508: Spirit acquired column 7, part 1 of the full-color Bonestell panorama and relayed data to Odyssey during the orbiter's afternoon pass overhead.

Sol 1509: Spirit surveyed the sky at high Sun with the panoramic camera and completed a "runout" of previously loaded activities after not being able to receive new instructions from Earth. The rover recharged the battery and relayed data to Odyssey.

Sol 1510: (April 2, 2008): Spirit acquired a 1-by-1-by-3 stack of microscopic images of a soil target known informally as "Arthur_C_Hammon" and placed the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer on the soil target. Plans for the following morning called for Spirit to acquire column 7, part 2 of the full-color Bonestell panorama.

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Spirit Phones Home To Reset Clock As Energy Levels Plummet For Mars Rover
Pasadena CA (JPL) Apr 05, 2008
Spirit is feeling the strain of juggling activities on Mars in the face of declining power levels as the winter Sun sinks lower on the horizon. After acquiring compositional data from a rock target informally named "Wendell Pruitt," Spirit had to wait a few sols (Martian days) to have enough energy to conduct atmospheric studies and move the robotic arm out of the way for a panoramic-camera portrait of a rock target known as "Freeman."

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