A.J.S. RaylJan 29, 2004

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Sends First Image Home Since Computer Glitch Shut Her Down Last Week

Opportunity Landing Site Renamed in Honor of Challenger Crew

The first Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit took -- and successfully returned -- her first image since problems.

The picture was taken by her front hazard identification camera, and shows her robotic arm extended to the rock called Adirondack.

Spirit had been instructed last Wednesday, January 21, to begin taking measurements of the rock named Adirondack, with the Mössbauer spectrometer, which is still placed against the rock.

The Mössbauer is specially designed to study minerals that contain iron, which are common on the Martian surface. It can determine the composition and abundance of iron-bearing minerals to a high degree of accuracy. One Mössbauer measurement takes about 12 hours. The Mössbauer, however, has its own micro-controller, so measurements can be performed at night while the rover is "asleep."

Engineers have been working around-the-clock to restore Spirit to working order so she resume the scientific exploration of its landing area. If things continue to go well, Spirit could be back to collecting science by early next week, Mission Manager Jennifer Trosper said earlier. It will be a week or so, maybe more, however, before the robot field geologist gets to roving again.

On the other side of Mars, at Meridiani Planum, Opportunity's landing site has been renamed in honor of the Space Shuttle Challenger's final crew. The area in the vast flatland called Meridiani Planum, where Opportunity landed last weekend, will be called the Challenger Memorial Station. The seven-member crew of Challenger was lost when the orbiter suffered an in-flight breakup during launch Jan. 28, 1986, 18 years ago today.

Challenger's commander was Francis R. (Dick) Scobee and the mission pilot was Michael J. Smith. Mission specialists included Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka and Ronald E. McNair. The mission also carried two payload specialists, Gregory B. Jarvis and Sharon Christa McAuliffe, who was the agency's first teacher in space.

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