Spirit Mission 2009 and onward

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MeteorWayne

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Until, when and if the lost pinned Spirit thread resurfaces, Thought I'd start one for the Time Being (and he told me he appreciates it)

News today from SDC:

Loose soil piled against a low plateau has blocked NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit from taking the shortest route toward its southward destinations for the upcoming Martian summer and following winter.

The rover has begun a trek skirting at least partway around the plateau, called "Home Plate," instead of directly over it.

Spirit spent 2008 on the northern edge of Home Plate, a flat-topped deposit about the size of a baseball field, composed of hardened ash and rising about 5 feet (1.5 meters) above the ground around it.

Despite the route change, Spirit has been able to get a jump start on its summer science plans, examining a silica-rich outcrop that adds information about a long-gone environment that had hot water or steam.
 
M

MeteorWayne

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Spirit has been attempting to approach an on-ramp on the north side of "Home Plate" for the ascent up onto this low plateau. The terrain finally proved to be too difficult for the rover driving with only five wheels.

Spirit made a little over a meter (3 feet) of progress on Sol 1825 (Feb. 19, 2009) trying to move out of the soft terrain at the base of Home Plate and set up for a drive up onto Home Plate. On Sol 1826 (Feb. 20, 2009), a turn-in-place was sequenced to move the rover out of the wheel trenches created by recent driving, but the maneuver was unsuccessful. The project decided at that point to abandon that route onto Home Plate and to have Spirit head around Home Plate to the east.

On Sol 1829 (Feb. 24, 2009), Spirit made about 6 meters (20 feet) of progress away from Home Plate. On Sol 1830 (Feb. 25, 2009), another 9 meters (30 feet) of progress was made along the new route.

As of Sol 1829 (Feb. 24, 2009), Spirit's solar-array energy production was 273 watt-hours. Atmospheric opacity (tau) increased slightly, to 0.710. The dust factor on the solar array is 0.304, meaning that 30.4 percent of the sunlight hitting the solar array penetrates the layer of accumulated dust on the array. The rover is in good health as it heads on the new path.

Spirit's total odometry as of Sol 1830 (Feb. 25, 2009) is 7,596.20 meters (4.72 miles).
 
M

MeteorWayne

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Emily Lakdawalla's Planetary Society Blog today is also concerned with the rovers. As usual, it's a great read with great images.
 
M

MeteorWayne

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From SDC:

http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/09 ... racks.html



Excerpt:
On its way toward its next destination on Mars, NASA's Spirit rover took a glance back at the tracks it has made on its journey, which exposed a bright patch of dirt.

Spirit is on its way from a low plateau called "Home Plate," where it spent the Martian winter, to two features dubbed von Braun and Goddard.

On the 1,861st sol, or Martian day, of Spirit's mission (March 28 here on Earth), the rover used its front hazard-avoidance camera to look back at the tracks it had made that day.

The rover's right-front wheel, immobile since 2006, churned up a long stripe of bright soil during this drive. Where Spirit has found such bright soil in the past, subsequent analysis of the composition found concentrations of sulfur or silica that testified to past action of water at the site.

When members of the rover team saw the large quantity of bright soil exposed by the Sol 1861 drive, they quickly laid plans to investigate the composition with Spirit's alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.
 
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MeteorWayne

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Previous update:

SPIRIT UPDATE: Distance Record for Five-Wheel Driving - sols 1852-1858, March 19-25, 2009:


Spirit is making good progress around Home Plate to the west. After getting clear of troublesome rocks, Spirit drove 13.8 meters (45.3 feet) on Sol 1854 (March 21, 2009). The next drive, on Sol 1856 (March 23, 2009), achieved a new distance record for five-wheel driving. Spirit drove 25.82 meters (84.7 feet), beating the old record by about a meter. Spirit completed another drive of 12.9 meters (42.3 feet) on Sol 1858 (March 25, 2009).

The sol ahead will see the building of the new R9.3 flight software on board the rover. The rover will boot the new software on the subsequent sol.

As of Sol 1858 (March 25, 2009), Spirit's solar array energy production is 233 watt-hours. Atmospheric opacity (tau) remains elevated at 1.15. The dust factor on the solar array, 0.309, means that 30.9 percent of sunlight hitting the solar array penetrates the layer of accumulated dust on the array. The rover is in good health in spite of dusty skies. Spirit's total odometry is 7,665.02 meters (4.76 miles).
 
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3488

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Thanks Wayne.

I could see from the image that Spirit is making real progress, not just the odd metre here or couple of metres there, etc. If Sirit could keep up lets say 10 - 20 metres per sol, that would be superb.

The tau seems high which is a bit of a worry, but the cleaning events a little while back have certainly helped & the 31% of the solar incidence getting to the arrays seem enough to keep Spirit going.

Just hope that very soon, there will be another cleaning event.

Looking West, dust devil, Sol 1,854.



Andrew Brown.
 
M

MeteorWayne

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Yes it seems both rovers really need a dust devil to come by, but Spirit in particular.
 
P

phaze

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Any chance the 2 rovers could meet up and have a duel to the death? My money is on Oppy.
 
Z

Zipi

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phaze":fqhzh6oi said:
Any chance the 2 rovers could meet up and have a duel to the death? My money is on Oppy.
Pretty unlikely. :D

But somehow funny point of view... Send two "robots" to a distant planet, both different sides of it. Do some science when driving towards each other and when they meet -> ¤%#¤&¤##!&. :twisted:

Maybe Google develops a challenge based on this? Good rules which involve lot's of science and then same instruments are used to fight each other. I'm pretty sure the audience would like that. :cool:

But until entertiment business realizes this you can always download Google Earth, switch planet to Mars and then roll the "ball" with dream of this at your thoughts. You can find all earth based gadgets on Mars with the search tools.
 
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3488

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Hi Zipi,

Yes yu are correct, it is unlikely & will not happen. Spirit & Opportunity are on opposite sides of Mars approx 6,000 miles / 9,600 KM apart. In fact the MER B Opportunity is closer to the Mars Phoenix Lander (in the Martian Arctic) than she is to MER A Spirit.

Hi all,

Nice mug shot of the excavated bright regolith, uncovered by the dragging wheel. Sol 1,864.



Also as Wayne pointed out, with the high tau value, the Mars Dial on sol 1,864 is only casting a weak shadow (the shadow is short now as the sun is high at Midsol), but the shadow is still weak, due to the sunlight being heavily diffused by the suspended dust particles.



Andrew Brown.
 
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3488

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Enlargement of the cap on Von Braun.


I wonder if Jon Clarke has any idea of the nature of that cap? To me it either looks like small flows or the slopes beneath have wasted away leaving a cap?

Rim of Goddard on the side of Von Braun.


Andrew Brown.
 
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JonClarke

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At last! Spirit's headinhg somewhere new and we have it in our sights!

I have no idea what it might be, but it sure looks interesting! No quite what I expected either. Spirit seems to be finding you stuff as the mission progresses, whereas Oppotunity gets lots more of the same.

I bet I could walk there in ten minutes, but we will have to wait 12 months for Spirit to hobble there....
 
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3488

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Hi Jon,

Von Braun does not look as expected to me. Von Braun appears more conical than I expected, I was expecting something that looks more like the 1,180 metre tall Roque Agando on the Canary Island of La Gomera (to the west of Tenerife).

Roque Agando, La Gomera, Canary Islands. Photo I took during my trip in May 2003.


I expected Von Braun to look similar a kind of scaled down version. Also Von Braun has that curious cap, where as Roque Agando does not.

I hope Spirit can get there in less than a year, but I think you are more realistic Jon. Also really looking forward to Spirit looking into Goddard Crater, to ascertain the true nature of that weird crater.

Andrew Brown.
 
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neuvik

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What is the height of Von Braun out of curiosity? The pancam image makes it seem small with that ridge in the background.

Hope we get the old thread back, the amount of good discussions in it gave an epic praise to the work of the MERs heh.
 
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JonClarke

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3488":3jdeu01e said:
Hi Jon,

Von Braun does not look as expected to me. Von Braun appears more conical than I expected, I was expecting something that looks more like the 1,180 metre tall Roque Agando on the Canary Island of La Gomera (to the west of Tenerife).

Roque Agando, La Gomera, Canary Islands. Photo I took during my trip in May 2003.

I expected Von Braun to look similar a kind of scaled down version. Also Von Braun has that curious cap, where as Roque Agando does not.

I hope Spirit can get there in less than a year, but I think you are more realistic Jon. Also really looking forward to Spirit looking into Goddard Crater, to ascertain the true nature of that weird crater.

Andrew Brown.
It 's certainly possible Andrew! I hope we see this up close sooner rather than later. But given the rovers average 6 m per day I won't hold my breath! :roll:
 
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3488

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Hi neuvik, difficult to tell how tall Von Braun is seeing as there are no real guides to scale. Having said that, the blocks on Von Braun, etc suggests to me that Von Braun is approx 15 metres / 50 feet tall. Perhaps Jon Clarke may know better.

Hi Jon, that's very true, but I really hope that Spirit can get there in a reasonable time. I am really worried about the lack of decent dust cleaning events & if one does not happen soon, then Von Braun & Goddard are moot points. I really hope Spirit gets there.

Sol 1,871 looking towards the base of Von Braun, showing the potential route.


Sol 1,871 NavCam view looking towards Von Braun & Goddard.


Sol 1,871 Front HazCam looking back (of course Spirit is driving in reverse).


Sol 1,871 Rear HazCam looking forward. Von Braun is visible on the right.


Andrew Brown.
 
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3488

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Looks like the skies are clearing above Spirit.

Sol 1,872 of the Mars Dial. Note how the shadow appears much stronger than a few sols ago when the tau was so high. Also the Mars Dial appears 'cleaner'. Has there been a timely cleaning event? I will check further images to see if the panels look cleaner.


Sol 1,872 Rear Hazcam (facing forward as Spirit is driving in reverse). Von Braun & Goddard are visible straight ahead.


Sol 1,872 Front HazCam (facing backwards). Note how the regolith is appearing less dusty.


Andrew Brown.
 
C

centsworth_II

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JonClarke":e49k7ubn said:
...I bet I could walk there in ten minutes, but we will have to wait 12 months for Spirit to hobble there....
Talk about the tortoise and the hare!
Fact is, Spirit can get there decades before you or any human can!

JonClarke":e49k7ubn said:
...given the rovers average 6 m per day I won't hold my breath! :roll:
Why this sour tone toward the rovers, and by extension their human controllers?
I hope I just caught you on a bad day.
 
J

JonClarke

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centsworth_II":1t4vhavf said:
JonClarke":1t4vhavf said:
...I bet I could walk there in ten minutes, but we will have to wait 12 months for Spirit to hobble there....
Talk about the tortoise and the hare!
Fact is, Spirit can get there decades before you or any human can!

JonClarke":1t4vhavf said:
...given the rovers average 6 m per day I won't hold my breath! :roll:
Why this sour tone toward the rovers, and by extension their human controllers?
I hope I just caught you on a bad day.
Not really a sour tone, after all the rovers have done far more than anyone expected and their operators have verged on the super human.

It's just a reflection of the fact that the rovers between then have averaged about 6 m per sol, Spirit a bit less, about 4 m. In fact, since Spirit began its descent of Home Plate it has averaged 2.2 m per sol. Snails would be faster.
 
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3488

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JonClarke":3s94z2nb said:
centsworth_II":3s94z2nb said:
JonClarke":3s94z2nb said:
...I bet I could walk there in ten minutes, but we will have to wait 12 months for Spirit to hobble there....
Talk about the tortoise and the hare!
Fact is, Spirit can get there decades before you or any human can!

JonClarke":3s94z2nb said:
...given the rovers average 6 m per day I won't hold my breath! :roll:
Why this sour tone toward the rovers, and by extension their human controllers?
I hope I just caught you on a bad day.
Not really a sour tone, after all the rovers have done far more than anyone expected and their operators have verged on the super human.

It's just a reflection of the fact that the rovers between then have averaged about 6 m per sol, Spirit a bit less, about 4 m. In fact, since Spirit began its descent of Home Plate it has averaged 2.2 m per sol. Snails would be faster.
I know Jon, that the apparent slow pace is frustrating, but now that there is a plan, Spring is well advanced now with the Martian Southern Summer Solstice coming up on: Friday 22nd May 2009, the Martian Southern Autumn Equinox not arriving till: Tuesday 27th October 2009, hopefully that 2.2 metres per sol average will rise enormously.

AFAIK, both MERs are in great shape considering their duration, dust, wear & tear etc & also AFAIK, there is nothing at the moment to suggest that either is going to expire imminently or even in the near future.

Both MERs have pulled off heroic deeds & continue to do so, as have the MER teams at JPL. If anyone said at launch that both would last nearly 2,000 sols (judging by current performance likely to exceed that by some margin), climb hills & in & out of craters & cover several KMs each, than I think that person would have been laughed at.

Sol 1,873 Spirit checks out some volcanic rocks.


Sol 1,873, Spirit spots two dust devils on the Gusev Crater floor.


My own crop & enlargement of above dust devils on the floor of Gusev Crater.


Andrew Brown.
 
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JonClarke

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It's roughly 240 m by the most direct route to von Braun. Allowing for digressions (there is a lot to see on the way) and detours (it's rocky it places) it is probably more like 360. At Spirit's average of 4 m per sol that is 90 sols. At the present 2 m per sol that is 180 sols. So let's say up to6 months to get there, or about the end of October.

360 m is about 10 minutes walk for an astronaut or a two day slither for a snail.
 
C

centsworth_II

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JonClarke":2frzs7w7 said:
...let's say up to6 months [for Spirit] to get there....
360 m is about 10 minutes walk for an astronaut or a two day slither for a snail.
And if an astronaut had a digital camera on Titan, the pitiful few shots taken by Huygens would be put to shame.

You didn't take too kindly to that sort of ridiculous talk. I'm surprised you need to be reminded how unfair that sort of talk is concerning Spirit. It may be interesting to compare Spirit's progress with what an astronaut could do, but rolleye references to Spirit's progress and snide comparisons to snails are the sorts of things I would expect you to rail against, not partake in.

The fact is, anything Spirit has done on Mars is something that no human has ever done on Mars. Anything Spirit has done -- at whatever pace -- is something that no human will do for the foreseeable future on Mars.
 
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JonClarke

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centsworth_II":18p00ve5 said:
JonClarke":18p00ve5 said:
...let's say up to6 months [for Spirit] to get there....
360 m is about 10 minutes walk for an astronaut or a two day slither for a snail.
And if an astronaut had a digital camera on Titan, the pitiful few shots taken by Huygens would be put to shame.
This is true, and were we discussing the excploration of Titan, or were it germane to the current discussion, I may well have mentioned it.

You didn't take too kindly to that sort of ridiculous talk.
Please don't put words in my mouth. After the immensely successful Huygens landing some ill informed people criticised the quality of the returned data because they failed to understand the mission constraints. I disagreed very strongly with this. At no time to my recollection was the Huygens mission compared to what might be achieved by a human mission.

I'm surprised you need to be reminded how unfair that sort of talk is concerning Spirit.
Why is it unfair? Why should people not be reminded that what is only a few minutes walk for a person will take months for the rover to get to? Or be given a familiar comparison to how slow they are?

It may be interesting to compare Spirit's progress with what an astronaut could do, but rolleye references to Spirit's progress and snide comparisons to snails are the sorts of things I would expect you to rail against, not partake in.
I think people need to be reminded from time to how painfully slow and limited such remote exploration is. Comparisions with snails and astronauts is useful to that end.

I know the Spirit probably can't do better than 2 m per day in the circumstances. I know the operators can't do better. I know this is sate of the art. But that does not make it any less frustrating. Hence the rolled eyes. You may be content with that, I want to work towards something better.

The fact is, anything Spirit has done on Mars is something that no human has ever done on Mars.
The rovers aren't explorinhg Mars by themsleves, that just personification of inanimate lumps of metal, crysal and plastic . Everything they have achieved has been done by humans.

Anything Spirit has done -- at whatever pace -- is something that no human will do for the foreseeable future on Mars.
Crewed Mars missions are in the forseeable future. Recognising the limits of extremely limited capabilities of remote exploration such as that using the rovers will bring that future closer.

In the meantime we will use the results of remote exploration and be grateful. That does not mean to say that we have to kid ourselves that it is anything other than very slow and limited.
 
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