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Solar conjunction: Holidays for Mars missions, and an Opportunity update

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.

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Spirit's still there

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.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Phones Home After Life-Threatening Dust Storm

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/11/13 11:00 CST

After taking a "direct hit" from one of Mars' notorious dust storms last weekend, Spirit phoned home today at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, exactly like its ground team had asked it to do and members of the rover team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) cheered. "She's talking!"

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High dust levels are making life tough for Spirit

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.

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Opportunity and Spirit updates: Both are now driving

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.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit "Bumps" a Move, Opportunity Puts the Pedal to the Metal

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/10/31 12:00 CDT

Spring is still off a ways on the horizon in the Red Planet's southern hemisphere, but the solar-powered Mars Exploration Rovers seemed to shake off their third Martian winter this month, as they roved into new phases and looked to new destinations on their overland expeditions of Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum. In the process, Spirit and Opportunity both chalked up notable achievements in October, adding to their already long list of accomplishments accrued as the world's first long-lived roving robot field geologists.

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Opportunity is really hitting the highway

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.

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Long drives at last for Opportunity (or, getting your kicks on sol 1,666)

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.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Embarks on New Endeavour, Spirit Gets Back To Normal Schedule

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/09/30 12:00 CDT

It's been a September to remember for the Mars Exploration Rovers with Spirit producing enough power to return to its science assignments on a daily basis and Opportunity commanding the spotlight once again as it embarked on a long journey toward a new, humongous crater and one of the most ambitious adventures undertaken on the mission.

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Opportunity's got a long road ahead

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."

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Exits Victoria Crater, Spirit Picks Up Pace on Panorama

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/08/31 12:00 CDT

Clear skies and a warming Sun brightened winter in the southern hemisphere of the Red Planet, giving the Mars Exploration Rovers, appropriately enough, an august month. Opportunity packed up, left Cape Verde in the dust, and made headlines when it roved out of Victoria Crater last Thursday. On the other side of the planet, Spirit picked up the pace of photographing its surroundings for its next big, 360-degree, full color panorama.

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Opportunity's ready for a new adventure!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/08/29 03:43 CDT

It's official: Opportunity is out of Victoria. A news release from JPL stated today that Opportunity has, as of late yesterday (sol 1,634), exited Victoria crater.

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Looking back into Victoria crater

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/08/08 08:00 CDT

Here's another wonderful self-portrait silhouette by Opportunity.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Bides Winter Time, Opportunity Wraps Victoria and Begins Exit

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/07/31 12:00 CDT

After cruising through winter solstice in late June, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) roved into July taking every advantage of a winter that is by all appearances now proving to be rather mild for the Red Planet. At Gusev Crater, Spirit managed to maintain its power level and get back to doing a little bit of science, while on the other side of the planet, at Meridiani Planum, Opportunity finished photographing Cape Verde and began to chart its course back to Duck Bay where it will exit Victoria Crater.

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Danes on Mars

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.

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Opportunity route map update

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/07/09 08:39 CDT

Eduardo Tesheiner was kind enough to send me an updated version of his route map for Opportunity so we can get a sense of just how close the rover is getting to Cape Verde.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Shudders Through Solstice, Opportunity Shoots Cape Verde Base

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/06/30 12:00 CDT

The Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) celebrated a landmark milestone in June as they "trudged" through the very depths of their third Martian winter.

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Sands on Earth, Sands on Mars

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.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Presses On, Opportunity Roves On as Martian Winter Sets In

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2008/05/31 12:00 CDT

As Phoenix commanded the headlines with its flawless touchdown in the arctic region of the Red Planet this past month, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) forged onward slowly, quietly and out of the spotlight, heading into the depths of their third Martian winter. Spirit persevered and held its own in terms of energy, while Opportunity, after six weeks of being stopped in its tracks with a shoulder joint injury, roved once more.

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Some beautiful video from the Spirit and Opportunity landing sites

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.

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