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Spirit Breaks Free In Race For Survival

Fiel image
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Dec 04, 2007
In typical unflagging fashion, Spirit has managed to break free of piles of soil built up around the wheels in a low, sandy area that the rover's handlers have nicknamed "Tartarus," after a deep, underworld dungeon in Greek mythology. Team members are pulling out all the stops to get Spirit to a winter location where, based on solar power projections, the rover has a chance at survival.

As the crow flies, that spot is 240.5 meters (130.8 feet) away. During the next few weeks, Spirit's journey to "Winter Haven 3" is expected to be no less difficult, requiring the rover to maneuver across a sandy, rocky valley along the western edge of "Home Plate."

During Spirit's 14 Martian days in Tartarus, the rover's trials were reminiscent of those of the previous Martian winter, when Spirit spent 12 sols churning up white material in a sandy area while trying to reach the slopes of "McCool Hill."

Guided by experienced, interplanetary drivers, the robotic geologist Spirit escaped Tartarus on sol 1388 (Nov. 28, 2007) and drove 3.43 meters (11.3 feet). This was a significant distance, given that Spirit's previous two drives were measured in centimeters (inches). The drive took the rover south away from Tartarus to look for another path around the area before driving north once again.

Spirit's handlers will be working non-stop during the weekend to take advantage of seasonal sunlight available for driving before solar power levels drop further. At present, the rover has about 310 watt-hours of power each day (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for one hour).

Sol-by-sol summary:

In addition to receiving morning instructions directly from Earth via the high-gain antenna, sending evening data to Earth at UHF frequencies via the Odyssey orbiter, and measuring atmospheric dust levels with the panoramic camera, Spirit completed the following activities:

Sol 1384 (Nov. 24, 2007): Spirit managed to drive 6.98 meters (22.9 feet). The rover took post-drive images with the hazard avoidance cameras and a mosaic of images with the navigation camera. The next morning, Spirit measured atmospheric dust with the navigation camera and surveyed the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 1385: Spirit spent the day recharging the battery. The following morning, Spirit acquired movie frames in search of dust devils with the navigation camera and completed a survey of rock clasts with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1386: Spirit drove only 0.25 meters (10 inches) and took images with the hazard avoidance cameras. The following morning, the rover acquired full-color images of Tartarus using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera.

Sol 1387: Spirit drove only 0.14 meter (5.5 inches) and acquired post-drive images with the navigation camera. The next morning, Spirit surveyed atmospheric dust with the navigation camera and acquired additional, full-color images of Tartarus with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1388: Spirit drove 3.43 meters (11.3 feet), finally breaking free from the piles of soil built up around each of its wheels. The rover acquired post-drive images with the hazard avoidance cameras.

Sol 1389 (Nov. 29, 2007): After a morning of surveying atmospheric dust and taking additional full-color images of Tartarus, plans called for Spirit to complete a photo shoot with the navigation and hazard avoidance cameras, survey atmospheric dust with the navigation camera, and acquire thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera.

Odometry: As of sol 1388 (Nov. 28, 2007), Spirit's total odometry was 7438.82 meters (4.62 miles).

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Noctis Labyrinthus, Labyrinth Of The Night
Paris, France (ESA) Dec 03, 2007
These images taken by the High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), onboard ESA's Mars Express imaged the Noctis Labyrinthus region, the 'labyrinth of the night' on Mars. The HRSC took these pictures on 25 June 2006 in orbit 3155, with a ground resolution of approximately 16 m/pixel. Noctis Labyrinthus lies at approximately 6.5 south and 260 east. The Sun illuminates the scene from the north-west, top right in the image above.

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