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Spirit Begins Preparing For Another Winter Hibernation

Spirit is healthy and all subsystems are performing as expected.
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Mar 28, 2008
Spirit has reached its final position for the coming Martian winter and has no plans to move before the next Martian spring. During the next few months, the rover will increasingly go into a "hibernate" mode as the sun continues to dim.

Spirit is currently wrapping up a campaign of scientific studies of the rock target known as "Wendell Pruitt," interspersed with remote science observations of targets nicknamed "Lucius Theus" and "Theopolis Johnson."

These targets were all named in honor of distinguished members of the "Tuskegee Airmen," the popular name for the 332nd Fighter Group, an all African-American unit of the U.S. Army Air Corps that served in the European Theater during World War II.

Spirit's previous attempt to use the wire brush on the rock abrasion tool on sol (Martian day) 1479 (March 1, 2008) failed to sufficiently brush the surface of Wendell Pruitt. The rover repeated the effort on sol 1484 (March 6, 2008) with greater success. On sol 1486 (March 8, 2008), Spirit acquired a 2-by-2-by-5 stack of stereo microscopic images of Wendell Pruitt.

The rover placed the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer on the target on sol 1489 (March 11, 2008) but postponed data collection with the instrument to conserve power for an operational readiness test in support of the Phoenix mission scheduled for the late morning of sol 1491 (March 13, 2008).

At that time, the rover was to send a tone at UHF frequencies directly to the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia. The tone was to serve as a beacon; the rover would not be transmitting data.

Spirit continued to take panoramic-camera images for the 360-degree "Bonestell panorama." The rover recharged its battery on sols 1485, 1487, 1488, and 1490 (March 7, 9, 10, and 12, 2008). On recharge days, the rover typically conducts minimal science activity and does not relay Eartbound data to the Odyssey orbiter as it passes overhead.

A complication in Spirit's current circumstances is that the mast holding the panoramic and navigation cameras is partially obscuring the X-band, high-gain antenna that Spirit's handlers use to command the spacecraft from Earth. Engineers have been experimenting with "parking" these instruments in positions that minimize this obscuration.

Spirit is healthy and all subsystems are performing as expected. The latest available power readings from sol 1489 (March 11, 2008) showed power at 254 watt-hours (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for one hour).

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 1484 (March 6, 2008): Spirit brushed the surface of Wendell Pruitt, acquired a single-frame, lossless-compression (high-resolution) image of the area in front of the rover with the navigation camera, and took stereo images with the front hazard avoidance cameras.

Sol 1485: Spirit acquired super-resolution images of half of Lucius Theus and recharged the battery.

Sol 1486: Spirit surveyed the horizon and took spot images of the sky for calibration purposes with the panoramic camera. Spirit monitored dust on the rover mast and acquired a 2-by-2-by-5 stack of stereo microscopic images of Wendell Pruitt.

The rover acquired a single-frame, lossless-compression image of the area in front of the rover with the navigation camera as well as stereo images with the front hazard avoidance cameras.

Sol 1487: In the morning, Spirit acquired column 2, part 3 and column 3, part 1 of the full-color Bonestell panorama, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera, then spent much of the Martian day recharging the battery.

Sol 1488: In the morning, Spirit used the navigation camera to take images of the sky (called "sky flats") for calibration purposes and used the panoramic camera to take super-resolution images of Theopolis Johnson. The rover turned the panoramic camera mast assembly to prepoint the camera, then recharged the batteries.

Sol 1489: Spirit placed the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer on Wendell Pruitt and, after relaying data to Odyssey, acquired data with the instrument.

Sol 1490 (March 12, 2008): Spirit acquired column 3, part 2 of the Bonestell panorama and recharged the batteries. Plans for the next morning called for Spirit to acquire thumbnail panoramic-camera images of the sky looking starboard (to the rover's right) for calibration purposes.

Odometry: As of sol 1489 (March 11, 2008), Spirit's total odometry remained at 7,528.07 meters (4.68 miles).

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