On Monday, November 16, 2009, Mars Exploration Rover Spirit will begin the much-anticipated, weeks-long process of extricating itself from a patch of powdery soil that stopped it in its tracks six months ago. It will begin by driving forward to the north, following its tracks out, even though its right front wheel is broken and immobilized.
The Mars Exploration Rover mission logged another textbook-rewriting month in October 2009 with more discoveries of geologic gems, new robot achievements balanced with equal amounts of challenges and frustrations overcome, topped off with special honors.
From notable achievements and new discoveries to trials and tribulations and harbingers of hope, the Mars Exploration Rovers seemed to experience the gamut on the Red Planet this September, their 69th month on an expedition that originally set out back in 2004 for a three-month tour.
Doug Ellison has done it again: he's created a spectacular overflight of Gusev crater based upon digital elevation models of the terrain produced by the United States Geological Survey from HiRISE data.
For a while, Mars was beating Spirit while she was down, throwing a dust storm at the rover where it's bogged up to its hubcaps in fluffy soil When lots of dust is lofted into the sky, the hazard is that when it comes down, it may come down on the rover and its solar panels. But it appears things on Spirit are still pretty clean.
The Mars Exploration Rovers hunkered down in place in August and delivered more mission "gold" as they achieved new milestones and uncovered more scientific gems, not the least of which was a blockbuster of a meteorite. But August proved to be a stormy month, uniquely challenging and one that many on the Mars Exploration Team will never forget.
"Third anniversary?" some of you may be asking. "Hasn't it been more like five years since Spirit landed?" Five Earth years, yes. But today is the third anniversary of the landing, measured in Mars years.
While Spirit has been stuck at Troy, it's been taking numerous opportunities to capture photos with dramatic twilight lighting. On sol 2,002 (three sols ago, or August 21), it gazed toward the setting Sun, snapping the shutter roughly once a minute.