Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/01/06 11:57 CST
Scott Maxwell is one of those many guys (and gals) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who rarely gets his name in the news but who is absolutely indispensable to the success of a space mission. I don't know what his official title is, but whatever it is, it's not as good as the colloquial name given to his position: Rover Driver.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/12/29 05:03 CST
We're getting close to the fifth anniversary of the landings of Spirit and Opportunity, but was we approach that milestone, we're passing another. I've been told that as of yesterday, Spirit and Opportunity have operated on Mars for a combined length of time that is longer than the combined number of sols that the twin Viking landers operated.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/11/21 01:09 CST
The period of Mars solar conjunction has just begun, which means that a host of scientists and engineers whose day jobs entail interaction with the five active Mars spacecraft are getting a five-week break from the daily grind of operations.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/11/13 05:14 CST
I am greatly relieved to report that Spirit did talk to Earth as ordered today, indicating that the rover's power situation did not get so bad that a "low power fault" was triggered. The rover's still following instructions, and is still with us, though the power situation is still critical.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/11/11 09:02 CST
There was a worrying update posted on the JPL website for Spirit today: an early-season dust storm has darkened its skies enough that its solar panels produced only 89 watt-hours of power yesterday, sol 1,725. Neither rover has ever, ever seen power production levels that low, not even during last year's massive dust storm.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/10/31 01:26 CDT
Another day, another drive: on sols 1,693 and 1,695 the Opportunity rover conducted two more lengthy drives to the south, totaling almost 200 meters. On the other side of the planet, Spirit is FINALLY in motion again.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/10/28 01:10 CDT
Victoria crater, the site of a Mars year's worth of study, is now far over the horizon, as Opportunity has lately completed a series of very long drives. Opportunity is once again sailing the sand seas of Meridiani Planum.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/10/02 12:41 CDT
It's been way, way, way too long since the view from either rover's cameras has changed very much. So I hope you'll join me in a shout of "woo hoo!" or perhaps "yippee!" as I show you the latest view from Opportunity, from sol 1,666, as automatically composed in Mike Howard's Midnight Mars Browser software.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/09/19 05:03 CDT
Mars Exploration Rover principal investigator Steve Squyres announced on National Public Radio's Science Friday show the next goal for Opportunity, and it's a long, long, long way away: a huge crater about 12 kilometers southeast of its current location, which the team is referring to internally as "Endeavour."
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/07/17 08:41 CDT
I was delighted to receive an email from Morten Bo Madsen, who I knew from the Mars Exploration Rover mission as "that Danish magnet guy," the fellow responsible for the magnet experiments on nearly every American Mars mission. The magnets were originally designed to study the properties of airborne Martian dust, which would help determine its composition.
Posted by Jim Bell on 2008/06/13 01:49 CDT
One of the ways that planetary scientists try to understand the origin and evolution of landforms on other planets is by studying similar kinds of landforms or "analogs" here on the Earth. For the past few days I've been working with a group of colleagues doing just that--specifically, studying dunes in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in order to try to better understand the nature of sand dunes on Mars.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/05/12 06:02 CDT
A majority of the people who work in planetary geology are usually associated with one or maybe two missions, doing all their research on the results from one instrument on one mission. But there are a few people whose expertise cuts across many space missions, and an even smaller number of people who seem to work on almost everything. Randy Kirk is one of those people.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/05/12 04:01 CDT
It's time to check in on what's going on with our trusty robots around the solar system.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/05/05 02:46 CDT
Here's what's happening on active planetary missions this week.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/04/28 09:56 CDT
I thought it would be fun to start the week by taking stock of what's going on with all the active planetary missions out there.