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Sturdy Rover Gets No Penalty For Tilting

The McMurdo panorama.
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (SPX) Mar 25, 2008
Scarcely a pinball wizard on Earth could tilt the machine nearly 30 degrees without ending play, yet engineers tilted NASA's Spirit rover 29.9 degrees and completed the robotic equivalent of a one-armed toe-touch to test its stability. The rover remained in play, racking up scientific data points after remaining perfectly balanced even while pressing the ground with the Mossbauer spectrometer at the end of its robotic arm.

During the past week, Spirit began work on a 360-degree, full-color panorama of the rover's winter surroundings as viewed from the north edge of the elevated, volcanic plateau known as "Home Plate."

The resulting mosaic of high-resolution images, to be acquired during approximately 60 individual pointings of the panoramic camera, will be nicknamed the "Bonestell panorama" in honor of Chesley Bonestell (pronounced BON-es-tell), a science fiction illustrator and designer. (Last year's spectacular image mosaic of Spirit's winter haven was called the "McMurdo panorama.")

Spirit took microscopic images of dust that has settled out of the Martian sky onto the solar panels. The rover also made two attempts to complete the first of a two-part process for brushing the surface of a rock target dubbed "Wendell Pruitt" with the rock abrasion tool, another of the instruments on the rover's robotic arm.

Because the results were inconclusive after the first try, Spirit's handlers decided to have the rover repeat the procedure, known as a "grind scan," during which the rover locates the surface by touching it with the brush and the grinding bit, two days later. The second attempt was successful, clearing the way for actual brushing of Wendell Pruitt.

Spirit is healthy and all subsystems are performing as expected.

Sol-by-sol summary
In addition to measurements of atmospheric dust levels with the panoramic camera and daily communications activities, which include morning direct-from-Earth uplinks over the rover's high-gain antenna and evening relays to Earth via the UHF antenna on the Mars Odyssey orbiter, Spirit completed the following activities:

Sol 1471 (Feb. 22, 2008): Spirit completed a mini-survey of the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, touched the ground and exerted 10 newtons of force with the Mossbauer spectrometer to test the rover's stability at the new tilt of 29.9 degrees, and acquired super-resolution images of a target dubbed "Gekko." Spirit took spot images of the sky for calibration purposes using the panoramic camera.

Sol 1472: Spirit checked for drift (changes over time) in the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, surveyed the external calibration target and completed a mini-survey of the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and acquired super-resolution images of a rock target known as "Monolith" with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1473: Spirit acquired full-color images, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera, of a rock target dubbed "William A. Johnston," a deceased member of the Tuskegee Airmen. Spirit checked for drift in the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, completed a mini-survey of the sky and ground with the instrument, and acquired a 2-by-2-by-1 stack of microscopic images of a target on the rover's solar panels as well as microscopic images of the external capture magnet and filter magnet. The rover acquired single-frame, lossless-compression (high-definition) images of the area directly in front of the rover with the navigation camera.

Sol 1474: Spirit monitored dust on the rover mast, surveyed the sky at varying elevations and the ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, completed another mini-survey of the sky and ground, and checked for drift in the spectrometer.

Sol 1475: Spirit took full-color images, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera, of a rock target nicknamed "Bennett Hardy" (also a Tuskegee Airman). The rover checked for drift in the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and completed a mini-survey of the sky and ground with the instrument. Spirit made the first attempt to use a grind-scan procedure to contact the surface of Wendell Pruitt. The rover took single-frame, lossless-compression (high-definition) images with the navigation camera.

Sol 1476: Spirit acquired super-resolution images of a rock target dubbed "Reuben C. Franklin" (a Tuskegee Airman) with the panoramic camera, checked for drift in the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and completed a mini-survey of the sky and ground with the instrument. The rover took diagnostic images of the rock abrasion tool and recharged the batteries.

Sol 1477 (Feb. 28, 2008): Spirit acquired column 1 of part 1 of the full-color Bonestell panorama, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera. The rover checked for drift in the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and completed a mini-survey of the sky and ground with the instrument. Spirit completed the second, successful attempt to locate the surface of Wendell Pruitt using the grind-scan procedure with the rock abrasion tool. The rover acquired single-frame, lossless-compression images with the navigation camera. Plans for the following morning called for Spirit to point the panoramic camera starboard and take thumbnail images of the sky.

Odometry

As of sol 1476 (Feb. 27, 2008), Spirit's total odometry remained at 7,528.07 meters (4.68 miles).

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Women Drivers On Mars
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Mar 14, 2008
Little noticed by the general public, February 23rd was a special day in space exploration. For the first time in history, an all-woman team of scientists and engineers guided a major NASA mission-the Mars Exploration Rovers. "We were in control of Spirit's activities for the day," explains Barbara Cohen of the Marshall Space Flight Center who headed up the science team. "It was a milestone in mission planning to be able to staff the uplink team with all women."









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