NASA'S Mars Rover Still Going... Going...
NASA's long-lived robotic rover Opportunity is
continues to explore Mars.
OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Driving
Through a Field of Small Craters
- sols 2411-2417, November 05-11, 2010:
Opportunity has been navigating through a field of small impact craters on her
way to Endeavour crater.
On Sol 2411 (Nov. 5, 2010), the rover performed an in-place 40-degree turn for
communication. This improved the data volume transmitted over the afternoon
orbiter Ultra High Frequency relay pass. Then on Sol 2412 (Nov. 6, 2010),
Opportunity began her approach to Intrepid crater, a 20-meter (66-foot) diameter
crater to the southwest. The rover performed a 96-meter (315-foot) drive, with
the last 12 meters (39 feet) of the drive under autonomous navigation. On Sol
2415 (Nov. 9, 2010), Opportunity completed the approach to Intrepid with a
36-meter (118 foot) drive, positioning the rover safely near the crater's rim.
Opportunity will spend the next few days imaging the interior of the crater
before driving away.
As of Sol 2416 (Nov. 10, 2010), solar array energy production was 612 watt-hours
with a slightly elevated atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.704 and a solar array
dust factor of 0.681.
Total odometry is 24,946.12 meters (24.95 kilometers, 15.50 miles).
SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Remains Silent at Troy
- sols 2431-2437, November 04-10, 2010:
Spirit remains silent at her location on the west side of Home Plate. No
communication has been received from the rover since Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010).
The project continues to listen for Spirit with the Deep Space Network and Mars
Odyssey orbiter for autonomous recovery communication from the low-power fault
case. The project is also conducting a paging technique called "Sweep & Beep"
strategy to stimulate the rover in the case of a mission-clock fault.
Total odometry is unchanged at 7,730.50 meters (4.80 miles).
"This is a tremendous example of how our Mars missions in orbit and on the
surface are designed to reinforce each other and expand our ability to explore
and discover," said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program
in Washington. "You can only achieve this compelling level of exploration
capability with the sustained exploration approach we are conducting at Mars
through integrated orbiters and landers.
"The combination of the ground-level and aerial view is much more powerful than
either alone," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. Squyres is
principal investigator for Opportunity and its twin, Spirit.
"If you were a
geologist driving up to the edge of a crater in your jeep, the first thing you
would do would be to pick up the aerial photo you brought with you and use it to
understand what you're seeing from ground level. That's exactly what we're doing
Within two months after landing on Mars in early 2004, Opportunity found
geological evidence for a long-ago environment that was wet. Scientists hope the
layers in Victoria will provide new clues about whether that wet environment was
persistent, fleeting or cyclical.
The rovers have worked on Mars for more than 10 times their originally planned
three-month missions. "Opportunity shows a few signs of aging but is in good
shape for undertaking exploration of Victoria crater," said John Callas, project
manager for the rovers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance
Orbiter shows the Mars Exploration Rover
Opportunity near the rim of "Victoria
Crater." Image credit: NASA/JPL/UAr>
View related images
"What we see so far just adds to the excitement. The team has worked heroically
for nearly 21 months driving the rover here, and now we're all rewarded with
views of a spectacular landscape of nearly 50-foot-thick exposures of layered
rock," said Jim Bell of Cornell. Bell is lead scientist for the rovers'
panoramic cameras. NASA plans to drive Opportunity from crater ridge to ridge,
studying nearby cliffs across the intervening alcoves and looking for safe ways
to drive the rover down. "It's like going to the Grand Canyon and seeing what
you can from several different overlooks before you walk down," Bell said.
The orbiter images will help the team choose which way to send Opportunity
around the rim, and where to stop for the best views. Conversely, the rover's
ground-level observations of some of the same features will provide useful
information for interpreting orbital images.
"The ground-truth we get from the rover images and measurements enables us to
better interpret features we see elsewhere on Mars, including very rugged and
dramatic terrains that we can't currently study on the ground," said Alfred
McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. He is principal investigator for
the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera.
JPL manages the rovers and orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. JPL
is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Saturday, May. 18