Spirit Mission 2009 and onward

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http://www.marsdaily.com : Spirit Catching More Rays
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Jun 21, 2010
Spirit remains silent at her location called "Troy" on the west side of Home Plate. No communication has been received from the rover since Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010).


It is likely that Spirit has experienced a low-power fault and has turned off all sub-systems, including communication and gone into a deep sleep. While sleeping, the rover will use the available solar array energy to recharge her batteries.

When the batteries recover to a sufficient state of charge, Spirit will wake up and begin to communicate.

There is the additional risk that the rover may trip a mission clock fault.

If that happens, the rover would remain asleep until the batteries have recharged sufficiently and there is enough sunlight on the solar arrays to wake the rover.

The southern winter solstice was on May 13, 2010, so solar energy levels and temperatures should be improving.

Total odometry is unchanged at 7,730.50 meters (4.80 miles).


I know that there are a lot of variables and no one knows when Spirit will wake up. But obviously if Spirit hasn't woken up in five years, its probably not going to wake up. The same is true, I believe, for one year, but how about six months? 3 months? Just a long winded way of saying, how long will it be before it becomes unlikely that Spirit will ever wake up?


Latest Release from NASA on Spirit:

"On July 26, mission managers began using a paging technique called "sweep and beep" in an effort to communicate with Spirit.

"Instead of just listening, we send commands to the rover to respond back to us with a communications beep," said John Callas, project manager for Spirit and Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "If the rover is awake and hears us, she will send us that beep."

Based on models of Mars' weather and its effect on available power, mission managers believe that if Spirit responds, it most likely will be in the next few months. However, there is a very distinct possibility Spirit may never respond.

"It will be the miracle from Mars if our beloved rover phones home," said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program in Washington. "It's never faced this type of severe condition before -- this is unknown territory."

Because most of the rover's heaters were not being powered this winter, Spirit is likely experiencing its coldest internal temperatures yet -- minus 67 degrees Fahrenheit. During three previous Martian winters, Spirit communicated about once or twice a week with Earth and used its heaters to stay warm while parked on a sun-facing slope for the winter. As a result, the heaters were able to keep internal temperatures above minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.


The earliest date the rover could generate enough power to send a beep to Earth was calculated to be around July 23. However, mission managers don't anticipate the batteries will charge adequately until late September to mid-October. It may be even later if the rover is in a mission-clock fault mode. If Spirit does wake up, mission managers will do a complete health check on the rover's instruments and electronics.

Based on previous Martian winters, the rover team anticipates the increasing haziness in the sky over Spirit will offset longer daylight for the next two months. The amount of solar energy available to Spirit then will increase until the southern Mars summer solstice in March 2011. If we haven't heard from it by March, it is unlikely that we will ever hear from it.
Full Release:

http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/ju ... ation.html

For more information about the rovers, visit:



news.discovery.com : Stuck Mars Rover Gets New Mission
Tue Oct 5, 2010 10:59 AM ET

By Irene Klotz


* Mired in sand, NASA's Mars rover Spirit has a new life awaiting as a stationary lander.
* Soil that trapped rover is filled with water-soluble materials that the rover will test.
* Spirit's new science roster also includes experiments to assess Mars' core and its atmosphere.


EarthlingX":1usefa40 said:
Strange and untimely article. All that "news" was reported months ago as attempts to extricate Spirit ended. Also, further escape attempts may be made.

According to this article, on the one hand, "At a press briefing on 26 January 2010, NASA declared Spirit would henceforth be a “stationary lander” after exhaustive extrication efforts failed to ‘Free Spirit’."

But on the other hand, "...I enquired whether NASA is reevaluating to try more driving IF she survives winter? Yes.

“The rover team does plan to try driving Spirit out of the immediate sand trap if the rover survives the winter. That was always a possibility”, Guy Webster informed me. He is the Public Affairs Officer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory which manages the Mars rover project for NASA. Webster cautioned that, “With only four working wheels, the expectation is that even if Spirit gets out of Troy, the rover will not be able to rove significant distance, but might reposition itself to reach different targets in the immediate vicinity”.


Yea, just thought to bump this thread a little, because the waking up is getting closer.


www.jpl.nasa.gov : NASA Trapped Mars Rover Finds Evidence of Subsurface Water
October 28, 2010

This mosaic of images shows the soil in front of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit after a series of short backward drives during attempts to extricate the rover from a sand trap in January and early February 2010. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University

PASADENA, Calif. -- The ground where NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit became stuck last year holds evidence that water, perhaps as snow melt, trickled into the subsurface fairly recently and on a continuing basis.

Stratified soil layers with different compositions close to the surface led the rover science team to propose that thin films of water may have entered the ground from frost or snow. The seepage could have happened during cyclical climate changes in periods when Mars tilted farther on its axis. The water may have moved down into the sand, carrying soluble minerals deeper than less soluble ones. Spin-axis tilt varies over timescales of hundreds of thousands of years.

The relatively insoluble minerals near the surface include what is thought to be hematite, silica and gypsum. Ferric sulfates, which are more soluble, appear to have been dissolved and carried down by water. None of these minerals are exposed at the surface, which is covered by wind-blown sand and dust.

"The lack of exposures at the surface indicates the preferential dissolution of ferric sulfates must be a relatively recent and ongoing process since wind has been systematically stripping soil and altering landscapes in the region Spirit has been examining," said Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, deputy principal investigator for the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

Analysis of these findings appears in a report in the Journal of Geophysical Research published by Arvidson and 36 co-authors about Spirit's operations from late 2007 until just before the rover stopped communicating in March.

The twin Mars rovers finished their three-month prime missions in April 2004, then kept exploring in bonus missions. One of Spirit's six wheels quit working in 2006.

In April 2009, Spirit's left wheels broke through a crust at a site called "Troy" and churned into soft sand. A second wheel stopped working seven months later. Spirit could not obtain a position slanting its solar panels toward the sun for the winter, as it had for previous winters. Engineers anticipated it would enter a low-power, silent hibernation mode, and the rover stopped communicating March 22. Spring begins next month at Spirit's site, and NASA is using the Deep Space Network and the Mars Odyssey orbiter to listen if the rover reawakens.

Researchers took advantage of Spirit's months at Troy last year to examine in great detail soil layers the wheels had exposed, and also neighboring surfaces. Spirit made 13 inches of progress in its last 10 backward drives before energy levels fell too low for further driving in February. Those drives exposed a new area of soil for possible examination if Spirit does awaken and its robotic arm is still usable.

"With insufficient solar energy during the winter, Spirit goes into a deep-sleep hibernation mode where all rover systems are turned off, including the radio and survival heaters," said John Callas, project manager for Spirit and Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "All available solar array energy goes into charging the batteries and keeping the mission clock running."

The rover is expected to have experienced temperatures colder than it has ever before, and it may not survive. If Spirit does get back to work, the top priority is a multi-month study that can be done without driving the rover. The study would measure the rotation of Mars through the Doppler signature of the stationary rover's radio signal with enough precision to gain new information about the planet's core. The rover Opportunity has been making steady progress toward a large crater, Endeavour, which is now approximately 8 kilometers (5 miles) away.

Spirit, Opportunity, and other NASA Mars missions have found evidence of wet Martian environments billions of years ago that were possibly favorable for life. The Phoenix Mars Lander in 2008 and observations by orbiters since 2002 have identified buried layers of water ice at high and middle latitudes and frozen water in polar ice caps. These newest Spirit findings contribute to an accumulating set of clues that Mars may still have small amounts of liquid water at some periods during ongoing climate cycles.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the rovers for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

More information about the rovers is online at: http://www.nasa.gov/rovers


http://www.jpl.nasa.gov : Mars Rovers Mission Using Cloud Computing
November 02, 2010

Artist's concept of a NASA Mars Exploration Rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell University

PASADENA, Calif. -- The project team that built and operates the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity has become the first NASA space mission to use cloud computing for daily mission operations.

Cloud computing is a way to gain fast flexibility in computing ability by ordering capacity on demand -- as if from the clouds -- and paying only for what is used. NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project moved to this strategy last week for the software and data that the rovers' flight team uses to develop daily plans for rover activities. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., which manages the project, gained confidence in cloud computing from experience with other uses of the technology, including public participation sites about Mars exploration.

"This is a change to thinking about computer capacity and data storage as a commodity like electricity, or even the money in your bank account," said JPL's John Callas, rover project manager. "You don't keep all your money in your wallet. Instead you go to a nearby ATM and get cash when you need it. Your money is safe, and the bank can hold as much or as little of the money as you want. Data is the same way: You don't need to have it on you all the time. It can be safely stored elsewhere and you can get it anytime via an Internet connection.

"When we need more computing capacity, we don't need to install more servers if we can rent more capacity from the cloud for just the time we need it. This way we don't waste electricity and air conditioning with servers idling waiting to be used, and we don't have to worry about hardware maintenance and operating system obsolescence."

Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004 for what were planned as three-month missions. Bonus, extended missions have continued for more than six years. Opportunity is currently active, requiring daily activity plans by a team of engineers at JPL, and scientists at many locations in North America and Europe. Spirit has been silent since March 2010 and is believed to be in a low-power hibernation mode for the Martian winter.

"The rover project is well suited for cloud computing," said Khawaja Shams, a JPL software engineer supporting the project. "It has a widespread user community acting collaboratively. Cloud enables us to deliver the data to each user from nearby locations for faster reaction time." Also, the unexpected longevity of the mission means the volume of data used has outgrown the systems originally planned for handling and sharing data, which makes the virtually limitless capacity of cloud computing attractive.

JPL collaborated with the cloud team of Amazon.com Inc., Seattle, to plan and implement the use of cloud computing in the Mars Exploration Rover Project's daily operations. JPL developed the rover project's activity-planning software, called Maestro.

"We have worked closely with multiple cloud vendors since 2007 to learn the best ways to gain the advantages of cloud computing," said Tomas Soderstrom, chief technology officer for the JPL Office of the Chief Information Officer. "To implement JPL CIO Jim Rinaldi's vision of renting instead of buying capacity, we pragmatically look past the hype about cloud computing to find the practical, cost-efficient real mission applications. The Mars Exploration Rover project's use of clouds is one example of this results-oriented partnership. More will follow."

In support of the federal Open Government Initiative, which increases public access to data collected by the federal government, JPL collaborated with the cloud team at Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., to launch the "Be a Martian" website in November 2009. The site enables the public to participate as citizen scientists to improve Mars maps and take part in Mars research tasks. At this site -- http://beamartian.jpl.nasa.gov -- more than 54,000 people have signed up to be "Martian citizens" and analyze data.

For another early use of cloud computing, JPL worked with the cloud team at Google Inc., Mountain View, Calif. The Google cloud served a project in which JPL and computer science students at the University of California, San Diego, developed an educational application enabling fifth- and sixth-graders to tag labels onto images from Mars spacecraft.

In addition to establishing a private cloud and working with Amazon, Google and Microsoft, JPL has also collaborated with other vendors of public cloud computing. Soderstrom said, "We defined a 'cloud-oriented architecture' to use clouds as an extension of our own resources and to run the computing and storage where it is most appropriate for each application."

The extended missions of Spirit and Opportunity have provided a resource for testing innovations during an active space mission for possible use in future missions. New software uploads giving the rovers added autonomy have been one example, and cloud computing is another. JPL is currently building and testing NASA's next Mars rover, Curiosity, for launch in late 2011 in the Mars Science Laboratory mission. This rover will land on Mars in August 2012.

Shams said, "The experience we gain using cloud computing for planning Opportunity's activities may be valuable when Curiosity reaches Mars, too."

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project and the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about these projects, see http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl .

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.



SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Remains Silent at Troy - sols 2424-2430, October 28 - November 03, 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 the Mars Odyssey orbiter for autonomous recovery communication from the low-power fault case. The project is also conducting a paging technique called "sweep & beep" to stimulate the rover in the case of a mission-clock fault. Improving solar insolation levels should provide an environment for the rover batteries to recharge with increasing likelihood of hearing from Spirit in the period ahead.

Total odometry is unchanged at 7,730.50 meters (4.80 miles).


news.sciencemag.org : Scientist: Spirit Mars Rover May Have Died
by Richard A. Kerr

on 12 November 2010, 3:09 PM

Mired in dry quicksand, chilled to the bone by the martian winter, and silenced by its feeble wintertime supply of solar power, the Spirit rover should have, with luck, beamed its first radio message since 22 March back to Earth as spring breaks out. No such luck.

On 20 September, Mars rover team leader Steven Squyres of Cornell University said, "I firmly believe that in the next 4 to 6 weeks, we're going to hear from that vehicle." That was 8 weeks ago. And the weekly rover update has long included a comforting line about how the ascending springtime sun could be recharging Spirit's depleted batteries, producing an "increasing likelihood of hearing from Spirit in the period ahead." This week that line was dropped.

"There's a good possibility it died, and we'll never hear from it again," Squyres now says. Guaranteed 90 days of roving, Spirit spent 6 years roaming giant Gusev crater analyzing rocks and soil. Its early days were a bit of a bust, having targeted a lakebed that turned out to be a boring lava plain. But its long life let it rove into nearby hills where it discovered long-sought rocks rotted by martian water and even a long-dead Yellowstone-like fumarole.

But hope springs eternal when it comes to expensive NASA planetary missions. Squyres points to a plausible sort of rover failure that could be delaying the rover's awakening from its protective hibernation. With slowly increasing sunlight and a fortuitous wind to blow dust off the solar panels, Spirit might still pipe up, he says. "So we listen, [but] it could be a long wait."

If the mission has finally ended, NASA could save upward of $10 million a year in operating costs on the $470 million mission.
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