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#376 2007-04-03 13:34:14

cIclops
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: March 31, 2007

Another detailed update by A.J.S. Rayl

Spirit:
Torquas was loaded with the tiny millimeter-sized spherules that seem just like all those millions of other spherules the rover has been seeing around Meridiani. Unlike all those other spherules, however, these spherules had no hematite. The finding is leading the science team members to believe that perhaps there is no connection between tiny spherules and hematite, a notion that is as intriguing as it is confusing and something that will likely keep some science team members busy for awhile to come. "That's what's been so much fun about this region," said Squyres. "There's just so much neat geology here."

...

Opportunity:
The rover is currently imaging the slopes from the Valley into the crater, and is otherwise in the process of wrapping up this phase of its exploration of Victoria to position itself for one of the mission's greatest assignments.

"We're going in," Squyres announced. The decision was part of a long-term plan the rover's science team made just last Wednesday (March 28, 2007) in the weekly planning session


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#377 2007-04-15 00:15:10

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Short but sweet movie of Martian clouds - imaged by Opportunity - assembled by Dilo

They have done some great work on that website

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#378 2007-05-03 05:01:58

cIclops
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

April 2007 update from A.J.S. Rayl

Spirt:

At one unusual outcrop of nodular units called Elizabeth Mahon, located just a few meters away from Home base, the rover discovered rocks containing 72% silica, the highest amount of silica seen so far on the mission and a sign of past water about as sure it gets.

Opportunity:

Opportunity, which has been averaging a strong 580 watt-hours, doesn't really need an energy boost like Spirit does, but it experienced one of the biggest mini-cleaning events ever. "We're seeing 700 watt-hours on Opportunity now, up from 580 or 590, so that's a significant jump," noted Squyres.

If all goes well, sometime around mid-June Opportunity should be taking position and preparing to enter Victoria -- if, that is, ingress into the big crater passes a formal review at NASA headquarters and is given the greenlight.


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#379 2007-06-10 20:08:14

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Mars rover finds "puddles" on the planet's surface

Opportunity was exploring a crater called Endurance it appeared to have contained liquid water two years ago.

dn12026-2_283.jpg

The imaging shows that the areas occupy the lowest parts of the terrain. They also appear transparent: some features, which Levin says may be submerged rocks or pebbles, can be seen below the plane of the smooth surface

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#380 2007-06-14 15:35:09

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Mars rover finds "puddles" - Updated 21:14 12 June 2007

Update: The researchers have retracted their claim about the possibility of standing water on Mars after readers pointed out the terrain lies on the sloped wall of a crater – see our blog explaining what happened


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#381 2007-06-28 11:06:45

cIclops
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Ready for Descent Into Crater - 28 Jun 2007

WASHINGTON - NASA's Mars rover Opportunity is scheduled to begin a descent down a rock-paved slope into the Red Planet's massive Victoria Crater. This latest trek carries real risk for the long-lived robotic explorer, but NASA and the Mars Rover science team expect it to provide valuable science.

Opportunity already has been exploring layered rocks in cliffs around Victoria Crater. The team has planned the descent carefully to enable an eventual exit, but Opportunity could become trapped inside the crater or lose some capabilities. The rover has operated more than 12 times longer than its originally intended 90 days.

The scientific allure is the chance to examine and investigate the compositions and textures of exposed materials in the crater's depths for clues about ancient, wet environments. As the rover travels farther down the slope, it will be able to examine increasingly older rocks in the exposed walls of the crater.

"While we take seriously the uncertainty about whether Opportunity will climb back out, the potential value of investigations that appear possible inside the crater convinced me to authorize the team to move forward into Victoria Crater," said Alan Stern, NASA associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington. "It is a calculated risk worth taking, particularly because this mission has far exceeded its original goals."

The robotic geologist will enter Victoria Crater through an alcove named Duck Bay. The eroding crater has a scalloped rim of cliff-like promontories, or capes, alternating with more gently sloped alcoves, or bays.


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#382 2007-06-28 13:02:51

noosfractal
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Oh noes!  Be careful Opportunity-san    :cry:


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#383 2007-07-08 12:07:54

Rxke
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From: Belgium
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

a records breaking duststorm might mean the end of the rovers soon...

http://www.space.com/news/070705_dusty_rovers.html


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#384 2007-07-08 22:43:27

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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

I love Wilson ... "Sorry about the rovers guys, but this is a great dust storm don't you think?"


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#385 2007-07-20 18:41:06

noosfractal
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Rovers still in danger.  Things aren't going to get better any time soon ...

http://www.space.com/news/070720_rover_dust.html


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#386 2007-07-20 22:08:56

cIclops
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Rovers Braving Severe Dust Storms - 20 Jul 2007

For nearly a month, a series of severe Martian summer dust storms has affected the rover Opportunity and, to a lesser extent, its companion, Spirit. The dust in the Martian atmosphere over Opportunity has blocked 99 percent of direct sunlight to the rover, leaving only the limited diffuse sky light to power it. Scientists fear the storms might continue for several days, if not weeks. "We're rooting for our rovers to survive these storms, but they were never designed for conditions this intense," said Alan Stern, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

If the sunlight is further cut back for an extended period, the rovers will not be able to generate enough power to keep themselves warm and operate at all, even in a near-dormant state. The rovers use electric heaters to keep some of their vital core electronics from becoming too cold.

Before the dust storms began blocking sunlight last month, Opportunity's solar panels had been producing about 700 watt hours of electricity per day, enough to light a 100-watt bulb for seven hours. When dust in the air reduced the panels' daily output to less than 400 watt hours, the rover team suspended driving and most observations, including use of the robotic arm, cameras and spectrometers to study the site where Opportunity is located.

On Tuesday, July 17, the output from Opportunity's solar panels dropped to 148 watt hours, the lowest point for either rover. On Wednesday, Opportunity's solar-panel output dropped even lower, to 128 watt hours.

NASA engineers are taking proactive measures to protect the rovers, especially Opportunity, which is experiencing the brunt of the dust storm. The rovers are showing robust survival characteristics. Spirit, in a location where the storm is currently less severe, has been instructed to conserve battery power by limiting its activities.

"We are taking more aggressive action with both rovers than we needed before," said John Callas, project manager for the twin rovers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

By Opportunity's 1,236th Martian day, which ended Tuesday, driving and all science observations had already been suspended. The rover still used more energy than its solar panels could generate on that day, drawing down its battery. "The only thing left to cut were some of the communication sessions," Callas said.

To minimize further the amount of energy Opportunity is using, mission controllers sent commands on Wednesday, July 18, instructing the rover to refrain from communicating with Earth on Thursday and Friday. This is the first time either of the rovers has been told to skip communications for a day or more in order to conserve energy. Engineers calculate that skipping communications sessions should lower daily energy use to less than 130 watt hours.

A possible outcome of this storm is that one or both rovers could be damaged permanently or even disabled. Engineers will assess the capability of each rover after the storm clears.

Not good news sad


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#387 2007-08-17 06:00:34

noosfractal
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Storm Subsides: Mars Rovers Now Battle Fallout
http://www.space.com/news/070816_rovers_update.html

Mars' globe-engulfing dust storm has died down during the past several weeks, but the two robotic rovers on its surface now face the fallout of dust from the thin atmosphere.

Conditions were so bad in early August that just before the launch of the Mars-bound Phoenix spacecraft, rover scientist Mark Lemmon feared the demise of the Opportunity rover.
...

[ looks like they made it though  smile ]


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#388 2007-08-31 06:10:23

cIclops
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Rovers rove out of dust storms

By A.J.S. Rayl
August 29, 2007

The Mars Exploration Rovers -- Spirit and Opportunity -- have survived the dust storms that whipped up and spread around the planet during the last couple of months and are now getting back to regular work schedules and doing what they do so well -- roving.

"Weather and power conditions continue to improve, although very slowly for both rovers," John Callas, MER project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), announced late last week.

No new storms have been lifting dust into the air near either solar-powered rover in the past two weeks and the skies are gradually brightening above both Spirit and Opportunity. The clearing, however, "could take months," noted JPL's Bruce Banerdt, MER project scientist. "There is a lot of very fine material suspended high in the atmosphere."

With the improved energy, both rovers are back on schedule to communicate daily. For several weeks, Opportunity was conserving energy by only communicating a couple of times a week.

After six weeks of hunkering down during darkened skies that reduced and limited solar power, Opportunity drove 13.4 meters (44 feet) toward the edge of Victoria Crater on August 21. MER mission controllers were taking advantage of gradual clearing of dust from the sky while also taking precautions against buildup of dust settling onto the rover.

One reason the rover team chose to drive Opportunity closer to the crater rim was to be prepared, if the pace of dust accumulation on the solar panels increases, to drive onto the inner slope of the crater. This would allow the rover to tilt its solar arrays to the Sun to maximize its intake of the solar power. The drive was also designed to check performance of the rover's mobility system, and it included a turn in place and a short drive backwards.

As the dust settles out of the air, it's accumulating on surfaces such as the rovers' solar panels and instruments. More dust on the solar panels lessens the panels' capacity for converting sunlight to electricity, even while more sunlight is getting through the clearer atmosphere.

But Opportunity got a break the day – or sol -- after its drive when a favorable gust whisked some dust from its solar panels, providing a boost of about 10 percent in electric output, forestalling the need to hurry to a Sun-facing slope. Its power level reached nearly 300 watt-hours on August 23, more than twice as much as five weeks ago, still less than half as much as two months ago. The team is anxious to get Opportunity inside Victoria Crater to check out a host of new science targets on the inner slope that were chosen in June, shortly before dust storms stopped the rover in its tracks. But just how soon the rover will enter the crater depends on assessments of how dust may be affecting the instruments and of how much energy will be available.

Spirit, meanwhile, has been faring well, although dust accumulation on its solar arrays has offset the would-be gain from clearing skies. Currently, Spirit's energy levels are about the same as Opportunity's, around 300 watt-hours per day.

Last Thursday, Spirit, which has been meticulously continuing it examination of a high silica rock called Innocent Bystander this month, drove 42 centimeters (17 inches) backwards to get in position for taking some final images of it. The rover team is planning additional drives for it to climb onto the raised volcanic formation called Home Plate.

The "injuries" sustained by the rovers during the dust storms is as yet undetermined. It appears that there is some dust on the lens of the microscopic imager on Spirit. That has slightly reduced image quality for that instrument, although image calibration can compensate for most of the contamination effects. The team is experimenting with ways to try dislodging the dust on the lens.


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#389 2007-09-14 04:03:37

cIclops
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

20070913a_PIA09928_br.jpg
Opportunity 6m inside Victoria crater - imaged 13 Sep 2007

Opportunity Begins Sustained Exploration Inside Crater - 13 Sep 2007

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity finished the last step of a test in-and-out maneuver checking wheel slippage at the rim of Victoria Crater today. Then the rover immediately drove back into the crater as the start of a multi-week investigation on the big bowl's inner slope.

Opportunity started the day with just two of its six wheels inside the rim of Victoria Crater and ended the day's driving about six meters (20 feet) inside the rim.

The mission's first destination inside the crater is a light-toned layer of exposed rock that may preserve evidence of interaction between the Martian atmosphere and surface from millions of years ago. Victoria exposes a taller stack of ancient rock layers than any crater Opportunity has previously visited during the rover's nearly 44 months on Mars. The mission was originally planned for three months.

"We want to maintain a safe egress route out of the crater for Opportunity, and by completing the back-up drive over the sand ripple at the rim, we have confirmed that we have one," said John Callas, Mars rover project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Opportunity is now exploring the interior of Victoria Crater."


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#390 2007-10-16 06:15:35

cIclops
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Fifth extension of operations - 15 Oct 2007

WASHINGTON - NASA is extending, for a fifth time, the activities of the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. The decision keeps the trailblazing mobile robotic pioneers active on opposite sides of Mars, possibly through 2009. This extended mission and the associated science are dependent upon the continued productivity and operability of the rovers.

"We are extremely happy to be able to further the exploration of Mars. The rovers are amazing machines, and they continue to produce amazing scientific results operating far beyond their design life," said Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

The twin rovers landed on Mars in January 2004, 45 months ago, on missions originally planned to last 90 days. In September, Opportunity began descending into Victoria Crater in Mars' Meridiani Planum region. At approximately a half mile wide and 230 feet deep, it is the largest crater the rover has visited. Spirit climbed onto a volcanic plateau in a range of hills that were on the distant horizon from the landing site.

"After more than three-and-a-half years, Spirit and Opportunity are showing some signs of aging, but they are in good health and capable of conducting great science," said John Callas, rover project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The rovers each carry a suite of sophisticated instruments to examine the geology of Mars for information about past environmental conditions. Opportunity has returned dramatic evidence that its area of Mars stayed wet for an extended period of time long ago, with conditions that could have been suitable for sustaining microbial life. Spirit has found evidence in the region it is exploring that water in some form has altered the mineral composition of some soils and rocks.

To date, Spirit has driven 4.51 miles and has returned more than 102,000 images. Opportunity has driven 7.19 miles and has returned more than 94,000 images.

Among the rovers' many other accomplishments:

- Opportunity has analyzed a series of exposed rock layers recording how environmental conditions changed during the times when the layers were deposited and later modified. Wind-blown dunes came and went. The water table fluctuated.

- Spirit has recorded dust devils forming and moving. The images were made into movie clips, providing new insight into the interaction of Mars' atmosphere and surface.

- Both rovers have found metallic meteorites on Mars. Opportunity discovered one rock with a composition similar to a meteorite that reached Earth from Mars.


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#391 2007-10-16 06:28:07

SpaceNut
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

While I do enjoy the views from the rovers and the science knowledge it is gathering for a future manned mission it sort of comes at the expense of possibly a future unmanned mission or the changing of this in the critical path to be executed further out on the mars timelines.

Have you seen any cost release for this extension?

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#392 2007-10-16 07:15:27

cIclops
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

The cost involved is small compared with the original mission and the science budget, in return NASA gets two operational mars rovers. Both are returning enormous amounts of data and exploring new places. They are the only spacecraft working on another planetary body and they're helping to prepare for the MSL mission. Operations cost about $15 m a year. This is great value!


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#393 2007-10-18 07:51:53

SpaceNut
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Mars is an interesting place where the secret of where the water went is slowing showing where it is.

In the past we have seen indicators that permaforst in the regolith, the polar ice caps, the sea ice packs and now it would seem that much of the water is locked up in compounds that are under our noses. The rovers have over the course of time have spun there wheels churning up lots of sulfur, salts and other powdery looking images.

Water on Mars: Look just below the surface

Ingenious detective work by University of Guelph researchers has uncovered the strongest evidence yet of large reservoirs of water today at the Martian surface.

The water isn't a liquid, but is chemically bound up in a white layer of mineral salts located only a penny's thickness below the planet's characteristic red surface.

The iron and sulphur compound that makes up this white layer contains as much as 18 per cent water by weight, says Iain Campbell, a retired University of Guelph physics professor who led the research.

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#394 2007-10-18 13:13:45

Rxke
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From: Belgium
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Wow, now that's something new. Would 18% be enough to make ISRU worthwile taking this approach (okay, going offtopic)


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#395 2007-10-23 06:12:53

slinted
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Would 18% be enough to make ISRU worthwile taking this approach

Why not?  It wouldn't take much of a temperature increase to begin dehydration, as low as 50 C for some of the ferric sulfates, and no higher than 300 C for some of the other sulfates found in the same hills.  Spirit has seen sulfates in many different positions around the Columbia Hills, so probably safe to assume these deposits are plentiful.  This stuff would be an easy and readily accessible resource, although it may be location specific.

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#396 2007-11-26 03:40:50

cIclops
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Detailed audio update from program manager John Callas of JPL - 19 Nov 2007

Interview lasting about 20 mins.


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#397 2008-01-01 17:59:23

cIclops
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Spirit and Opportunity Wrap Year 4 Ready to Rove into 2008 by A.J.S. Rayl - 31 Dec 2007

When the rover analyzed the sample with the APXS, the composition turned out to be 91% pure SiO2 -- silica, and is significantly enriched in titanium. "This immediately becomes one of our Top 10 discoveries, maybe Top 5," Squyres said then. The rover and the team decided to hang out a while longer in the little valley between Mitcheltree Ridge and Home Plate, what quickly came to be called Silica Valley.

<snip>

The new rover software, which Li described at the AGU meeting, uses images from the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard MRO and compares them to panoramas taken by the rovers on the ground to precisely map features on the surface.  “HiRISE gives us 0.3-meter (one foot) resolution on the ground, so we can combine those orbital images with ground images to identify rocks from the orbiter and the ground,” Li explained. The key, he said, is to combine panoramas taken by the rovers to give a wide view of the terrain.

One of the new functions of the software is to give the rovers the ability to take wide baseline stereo images. The rover takes one panorama, then travels a distance from several feet to 300 feet, depending on the terrain and tasks it's performing at the time. “It's as if the rover had a baseline view that is bigger than the rover itself,” Li said. The software combines these two or more rover panoramas in a way analogous to how our brain combines the images from our left eye and right eye to give us a stereo view of our surroundings -- only the software is able to calculate where features on the landscape are located and match them to features on HiRISE images at high accuracy.

<snip>

The other affected instrument is the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, better known as the Mini-TES. “It sits in the belly of the rover, but looks up the Pancam mast assembly, almost like a periscope and there is a series of mirrors, folded optics [it uses],” Callas explained. “Our only meaningful theory is that there is a thick layer of dust on one or more of the optical surfaces.”

The plan to “vibrate” some of the dust off those mirrors, discussed in the November MER Update, is still on. “There's actually a mode we discovered during integration and test of the rovers more than four years ago, where you get a slight instability in the motion control -- the positive feedback hits a resonance. We've actually been able to reproduce that successfully and it doesn't propose a threat to the actuator mechanism, so we're going to try that.”

and much more.


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#398 2008-02-03 03:21:42

cIclops
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Spirit and Opportunity Begin Fifth Year of Exploration - A.J.S. Rayl 31 Jan 2008

Opportunity continued its investigation of the tri-layered rock ring that circles the interior of Victoria Crater. The rover is still in the Lyell region, now about 15 meters below the rim, working on its fourth target in that third layer of the rock band. "We're on steep slopes, but the drives have been fine," said Jake Matijevic, chief of the MER engineering team.

As a result and as expected, energy levels are dropping on both rovers. Even though Spirit is in its winter haven and now has its solar arrays tilted at 22 degrees, it's only averaging about 260 watt-hours of power and is now on its winter schedule of working about 1.5 hours a day. "Even with the tilt, energy has been somewhat limited," Matijevic said. "We've been no higher than 280-watt hours in this whole month period and we're currently at 260 watt-hours." That noted, these are the numbers they anticipated. "It's falling more or less within what we predicted, maybe a little better," he confirmed.

Power levels have been decreasing on Opportunity as well. "We were generating 700 watt-hours but over last month and half and we're down to about 500 watt-hours," said Matijevic. "That's still plenty good for the kinds of activities we're doing."

"Once springtime comes, we want to send Spirit off in search of new evidence of hydrothermal activity at Gusev," Squyres said. "I want to find more silica. The thing that's going to tell us the silica story is not the silica itself, but where it occurs and what it occurs in conjunction with. We have found a lot of places with silica and they're all different from one another. I'm sure there are more. But we've got to get Spirit through this winter and it's going to be a tough, tough winter," he acknowledged.

Opportunity, meanwhile, will be wrapping up the Victoria campaign and roving onward, but where exactly has not been determined. "The issue is how long do we dare stay inside Victoria Crater? At what point do we decide it's time to get out on the plains and do something new?" said Squyres. "The rover is doing great and is in great health, but if we lose a wheel, it's going to be tough getting out." There is no reason to suspect there is anything wrong with Opportunity's wheels. "But the characteristics of some of these failures is you don't see them coming. We're pushing these rovers awful hard." Opportunity's next major destination awaits a decision the MER team will probably make soon.


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#399 2008-02-27 15:16:08

dunwich
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Yeah their our martian duracell bunny's the yust keep going and going


People think dreams aren't real just because they aren't made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes.

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#400 2008-03-08 00:36:15

cIclops
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Re: Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Spirit Settles into Winter Spot, Opportunity Descends Deeper into Victoria Crater - 29 Feb 2008

At Gusev Crater, Spirit took another series of gradual little "bumps" this month, inching backward and further down the outside slope at the northern edge of Home Plate, nestling into a sweet spot on Valentine's Day where it is now hunkering down to wait out its third winter. Each "bump" or move allowed the solar-powered rover to increase its tilt angle toward the Sun, which continues to move northward in the Martian sky.

Spirit's solar arrays are now tilted at 29.9 degrees, which is about as far as the rover can safely go and still conduct science with its robotic arm, said Jake Matijevic, chief of rover engineering at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where the MERs were designed and are being managed.

Opportunity, meanwhile, continued generating more power than its twin, but its levels also dropped from an average of 480 watt-hours in January to an average of 430 watt-hours in February. "The Sun is north now and the vehicle is tilted toward south, so this is not unexpected," Matijevic noted. "But the energy levels actually are fine, adequate for doing its investigations." Opportunity put in an average of about 5 hours of science and engineering work each day, much as it did last month. The rover continues to utilize DeepSleep mode, shutting down all systems at night because of the heater that somehow stuck in the "on" position way back when 4 years ago.

And many more details of the science and times of both rovers by A.J.S. Rayl.


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