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Spirit Photographs Her Underbelly, SOL 1925

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


This panorama of images from the Spirit rover, taken on Sol 1925 (June 2, 2009), is helping engineers assess the rover's current state and plan her extraction from the soft soil in the region now called "Troy." The images were taken by Spirit's Microscopic Imager (MI) instrument, mounted on the end of her robotic arm. The MI science investigation is led by Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff.

This is the first time the MI has been used to assist in planning a rover's escape from an embedding event. The MI isn't intended to take these types of images--it is designed to focus on targets only 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) in front of its optics. As a result, the images in this mosaic are well out of focus. Yet despite the focus and the backlighting of the scene, Joel Hagen (Modesto Jr. College) and colleagues at NASA's Ames Research Center in California were able process the images to bring out the details shown here. The mosaic shows the underside of the rover, the depth to which the wheels are embedded and the terrain itself in sufficient detail to assess the rover's state.


More information on the rovers | Official Press Release

Mars Rovers Survive Dust Storms, Ready for Next Objectives

Friday, September 7, 2007

Two months after sky-darkening dust from severe storms nearly killed NASA's Mars exploration rovers, the solar powered robots are awake and ready to continue their mission. Opportunity's planned descent into the giant Victoria Crater was delayed, but now the rover is preparing to drive into the 800-meter-diameter crater (half-mile-diameter) as early as Sept. 11. Victoria Crater contains an exposed layer of bright rocks that may preserve evidence of interaction between the Martian atmosphere and surface from millions of years ago, when the atmosphere might have been different from today's. Victoria is the biggest crater Opportunity has visited.

Spirit, Opportunity's rover twin, also survived the global dust storms. The rovers are 43 months into missions originally planned to last three months. On Sept. 5, Spirit climbed onto its long-term destination called Home Plate, a plateau of layered bedrock bearing clues to an explosive mixture of lava and water.

More: NASA - Mars Rovers Survive Dust Storms, Ready for Next Objectives

More: NASA Podcast - Opportunity knocks -- on a Martian crater

Rovers get back to work

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

After six weeks of hunkering down during raging dust storms that limited solar power, both of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have resumed driving. Opportunity advanced 13.38 meters (44 feet) toward the edge of Victoria Crater on Aug. 21. 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.

No new storms have been lifting dust into the air near either solar-powered rover in the past two weeks. Skies are gradually brightening above both Spirit and Opportunity. "The clearing could take months," said rover Project Scientist Bruce Banerdt. "There is a lot of very fine material suspended high in the atmosphere." As that material does settle out of the air, the powdery dust is 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.

More: NASA - Rovers Resume Driving

Update: Mars Rovers Braving Severe Dust Storms

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Artist's Concept of Rover on Mars
Artist's Concept of Rover on Mars (credit: Maas Digital LLC)

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity sent signals Monday morning, July 23, indicating its power situation improved slightly during the days when it obeyed commands to refrain from communicating with Earth in order to conserve power.

Dust storms on Mars in recent weeks have darkened skies over both Opportunity and its twin, Spirit. Last week Opportunity was commanded to go into a very low-power state and to communicate only once every three days. Next scheduled transmission will be Thursday, July 26, though controllers may command Opportunity to send information on Tuesday, July 24. "The outlook for both Opportunity and Spirit depends on the weather, which makes it unpredictable, " said JPL's John Callas, project manager for both rovers. "If the weather holds where it is now or gets better, the rovers will be OK. If it gets worse, the situation becomes more complex ".

Read the Full Story from NASA.

Dust Storm Affects Mars Rovers

Friday, July 6, 2007

NASA - A giant dust storm brewing for more than a week on Mars has become worse and is affecting surface operations of the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Because the rovers depend on solar energy for survival, and the dust is partially blocking the sun, the storm is being watched closely by the rover scientists and engineers. Opportunity's entry into Victoria Crater is delayed for at least several days.

The storm, the most severe storm yet to hit the rovers, is expected to continue for at least another week. Opportunity is perched near "Duck Bay" as it readies to descend into Victoria Crater, but operations were scaled back on Saturday, June 30, to conserve power.

More: NASA - Dust Delays Mars Crater Entry

Rover Team Tests Mars Moves on Earth

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Rover engineers check how a test rover moves in material chosen to simulate some difficult Mars driving conditions.
Rover engineers check how a test rover moves in material chosen to simulate some difficult Mars driving conditions.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL
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Mars rover engineers are using a testing laboratory to simulate specific Mars surface conditions where NASA's rover Opportunity has spun its wheels in a small dune. Careful testing is preceding any commands for Opportunity to resume moving to get out of the dune and continue exploring.

The rover team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has cooked up recipes combining various sandy and powdery materials for the best simulation on Earth of the dune where Opportunity dug itself in to wheel-hub depth last week. The team has not asked Opportunity to turn its wheels at all since the rover bogged down during a drive on April 26.

Links to More Information

JPL - Rover Team Tests Mars Moves on Earth

USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Durable Mars Rovers Sent Into Third Overtime Period

Friday, April 15, 2005

mosaic image from opportunity
Opportunity navigation camera mosaic from sol 399 Beside 'Vostok Crater' 3/15/05 NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera to take the images combined into this 360-degree view of the rover's surroundings on the 399th martian day, or sol, of its surface mission (March 8, 2005). Opportunity drove 35 meters (115 feet) that sol and reached the edge of "Vostok Crater" before taking the images. Sand has buried much of the crater. This location is catalogued as Opportunity's site 50. The view is presented in a cylindrical projection with geometric seam correction. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

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NASA has approved up to 18 more months of operations for Spirit and Opportunity, the twin Mars rovers that have already surprised engineers and scientists by continuing active exploration for more than 14 months.

"The rovers have proven their value with major discoveries about ancient watery environments on Mars that might have harbored life," said Dr. Ghassem Asrar, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "We are extending their mission through September 2006 to take advantage of having such capable resources still healthy and in an excellent position to continue their adventures."

More: JPL - Durable Mars Rover Sent Into Third Overtime Period

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Winds on Mars and Diagnostic Tests Planned for Instrument on Mars Rover

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Dust devils from the rovers point of view
Dust Devils Seen by Spirit

At the Gusev site recently, skies have been very dusty, and on its 421st sol (March 10, 2005) NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit spied two dust devils in action. This pair of images is from the rover's rear hazard-avoidance camera. Views of the Gusev landing region from orbit show many dark streaks across the landscape -- tracks where dust devils have removed surface dust to show relatively darker soil below -- but this is the first time Spirit has photographed an active dust devil. One sol before this image was taken, power output from Spirit's solar panels went up by about 50 percent when the amount of dust on the panels decreased. Was this a coincidence, or did a helpful dust devil pass over Spirit and lift off some of the dust?

Image Credit: NASA/JPL

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Spirit's work capabilities grew with a sudden jump in output from solar panels on March 9, which caused the daily power supply to double. In a possibly related development three days earlier, some dust appeared to have blown onto lenses of Spirit's front hazard-avoidance camera, enough for slight mottling in images from both the left and right eyes of the stereo camera, but not enough to affect the usefulness of the camera. Mottling in left-eye images cleared markedly the same day the power increased. Team members speculated that Spirit's power boost, like similar ones on Opportunity in October, resulted from wind removing some accumulated dust from solar panels. Spirit captured pictures of dust-lofting whirlwinds on March 10, adding evidence for windy local conditions. Images the next day showed solar panels cleaned of most of their dust buildup.

NASA has suspended use of one of the mineral-identifying tools on the Opportunity Mars rover while experts troubleshoot a problem with getting data from the instrument, the robot's miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

"As always, our first priority is to protect the instrument, so we have turned it off while we plan diagnostic tests," said Jim Erickson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project manager for the Mars Exploration Rover Project. "Opportunity's other instruments are healthy and providing excellent science, and Spirit's entire instrument suite is working well and being kept busy by the science team."

More: JPL Diagnostic Tests Planned for Instrument on Mars Rover

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project


Mars Rovers Break Driving Records, Examine Salty Soil

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Naturaliste Crater

'Naturaliste' Crater Opportunity Sol 387

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera to take the images combined into this view of the rover's surroundings on Opportunity's 387th martian day, or sol (Feb. 24, 2005). Opportunity had driven about 73 meters (240 feet) and reached the eastern edge of a small crater dubbed "Naturaliste," seen in the right foreground. This view is the right-eye member of a stereo pair presented in a cylindrical-perspective projection with geometric and brightness seam correction.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL

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On three consecutive days, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity accomplished unprecedented feats of martian motion, covering more total ground in that period than either Opportunity or its twin, Spirit, did in their first 70 days on Mars.

Spirit, meanwhile, has uncovered soil that is more than half salt, adding to the evidence for Mars' wet past. The golf-cart-size robots successfully completed their three-month primary missions in April 2004 and are continuing extended mission operations.

More: JPL - Mars Rovers Break Driving Records, Examine Salty Soil

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Spirit and Opportunity Continue Explorations

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

rover concept art
Mars Rover artwork

After more than a year on Mars, rovers Spirit and Opportunity are still actively exploring. Spirit's solar panels are collecting a fine layer of dust, which has reduced energy levels. Despite the dust, Spirit has recently visited "Cumberland Ridge" and has been moving towards "Larry's Lookout." Opportunity is in good health, and has completed its investigation of a trench and soil materials under clear skies. Both rovers are scheduled for software updates.

More: JPL - Spirit Status Report

More: JPL - Opportunity Status Report

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

About Face: Rover Engineers Change the Rules for Driving

Friday, July 16, 2004

When Joe Melko started design work four years ago on the six-wheeled rovers that are now on Mars, he didn’t plan on steering one of them like a six-person river raft. five 1/2 months after landing the robots on Mars, that’s what he and a team of engineers are doing. Now that the right front wheel on the Spirit rover is showing signs of wear, Melko and a team of assistants have been testing a surrogate rover at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to see how it performs on five wheels. No matter that the rover has gone six times the distance it was designed to drive on Mars. Scientists still have a lot of rock outcrops they’d like to investigate. And this team will keep that rover going as long as humanly possible.

More: Mars Exploration Rovers - About Face: Rover Engineers Change the Rules for Driving

Link: NASA - Spirit event archive

Mars Rover Surprises Continue; Spirit, Too, Finds Hematite

Friday, June 25, 2004

close-up image taken by Spirit highlights the nodular nuggets that cover the rock dubbed "Pot of Gold."
This close-up image taken by Spirit highlights the nodular nuggets that cover the rock dubbed "Pot of Gold."


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Spirit rolled up to a knobby rock just past where the "Columbia Hills" start to rise from the surrounding plain. It touched the rock with a mineral-identifying instrument at the tip of its robotic arm and detected hematite. Hematite identified from orbit was NASA's key reason for choosing Opportunity's landing site halfway around Mars from these hills within Gusev Crater.

More: JPL - Mars Rover Surprises Continue; Spirit, Too, Finds Hematite

Link: Cornell University - Mars Rover Mission Journal

Rover Opportunity Lands on Mars

Sunday, January 25, 2004

NASA's second Mars Exploration Rover successfully sent signals to Earth during its bouncy landing and after it came to rest on one of the three side petals of its four-sided lander. Mission engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., received the first signal from Opportunity on the ground at 9:05 p.m. Pacific Standard Time Saturday via the NASA Deep Space Network, which was listening with antennas in California and Australia. Opportunity landed in a region called Meridiani Planum, halfway around the planet from the Gusev Crater site where its twin rover, Spirit, landed three weeks ago. Earlier today, mission managers reported progress in understanding and dealing with communications and computer problems on Spirit.

More: NASA - NASA Hears From Opportunity Rover On Mars

More: NASA - Opportunity Sits In A Small Crater, Near A Bigger One

More: NASA - First Images Of Opportunity Site Show Bizarre Landscape

Spirit Drives to 'Adirondack'

Monday, January 19, 2004

NASA's Spirit rover has successfully driven to its first target on Mars, a football-sized rock that scientists have dubbed Adirondack. The Mars Exploration Rover flight team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., plans to send commands to Spirit early Tuesday to examine Adirondack with a microscope and two instruments that reveal the composition of rocks, said JPL's Dr. Mark Adler, Spirit mission manager. The instruments are the Mössbauer spectrometer and the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer.

More: NASA - Spirit Drives to a Rock Called 'Adirondack' for Close Inspection

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rovers Project

Spirit Flexes Its Arm

Friday, January 16, 2004

Mars in Glorious Detail
Mars in Glorious Detail

This close-up look at a patch of martian soil is the sharpest image ever taken of another planet. The picture was captured by the microscopic imager located on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's instrument deployment device, or "arm." Scientists liken the alien soil to clumpy cocoa powder. The upper left corner of the soil patch is illuminated by direct sunlight and thus appears brighter. The actual size of the patch is about 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) across.

NASA/JPL/Cornell/USGS Astro

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NASA's Spirit rover reached out with its versatile robotic arm early today and examined a patch of fine-grained martian soil with a microscope at the end of the arm. "I'm elated and relieved at how well things are going. We got some great images in our first day of using the microscopic imager on Mars," said USGS Astrogeology's Ken Herkenhoff Herkenhoff is the lead scientist for the microscopic imagers on Spirit and on Spirit's twin Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity.

More: NASA - Spirit Flexes Its Arm to Use Microscope on Mars' Soil

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rovers Project