Spirit – the first of NASA's two robot geologists en route to the red Planet -- is “in “excellent” health, NASA and JPL scientists reported at a news briefing at JPL this afternoon, and the countdown to touch down on the Red Planet has begun.
Spirit -- NASA's first Mars Exploration Rover -- survived the 'six minutes of terror' entering and descending through the atmosphere to land safely -- and upright -- in Gusev Crater on the Red Planet. Just two hours after the confirmation signal of the landing, the first engineering data and images began streaming into the MER Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where Spirit and her twin, Opportunity were built.
With additional data due later today and early tomorrow morning, the mission team is hoping to receive and piece together the first color picture perfect panoramic postcard -- from the PanCam, a high resolution stereo vision camera -- for the briefing tomorrow.
If a Hollywood screenwriter had crafted the scenes for the last few days of the Spirit Mission Team at JPL as they really happened -- success after success, triumphant image after triumph he or she would be out of a job.
Spirit continues to return "exquisite" science data -- including more impressive high-resolution pictures of its alien surroundings -- and it has stood up, but the golf-cart sized rover is still days away from rolling off the Columbia Memorial Station.
Spirit is up -- standing at full height on all six wheels -- and is ready to roll off the lander heading west by northwest, probably sometime early Thursday morning Earth time, according to the latest plan.
Spirit has extended her robotic arm for the first time to examine a patch of fine-grained Martian soil, and joined forces with the European Space Agency's Mars Express to successfully conduct the first-ever, international, coordinated observation of the planet's atmosphere.
Spirit ventured out yesterday, driving nearly 10 feet (about 3 meters) to its first target -- a football-sized rock that scientists have dubbed Adirondack. Meanwhile, Spirit's twin, Opportunity, successfully completed its first trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) in four months.
Spirit 'phoned home' this morning and returned some good engineering data, but the Mars rover remains in "intensive care," as members of a newly formed anomaly team scramble to find out what caused the glitch two days ago -- and how to fix it.
The second Mars Exploration Rover -- Opportunity -- Spirit's identical twin -- is approaching the atmosphere of Mars and is expected to land on the Red Planet tonight around 9:06 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.
The specially formed Anomaly Team working overnight to unravel the mystery of what happened last Wednesday that caused the rover’s computer to fall into a reboot loop and stop functioning properly – had by this morning come up with a working hypothesis.
Although it did appear from the very first images returned that the second Mars Exploration Rover had landed inside a small crater when it arrived at Meridiani Planum last Saturday night, that belief was confirmed with further analysis yesterday.
NASA Headquarters issued a press release late yesterday announcing that the agency is memorializing the Apollo 1 crew -- Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee -- by naming the hills surrounding the first Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's landing site after the three astronauts.
Opportunity rolled off her lander and onto the dark red Martian soil at Meridiani Planum early Saturday morning, at about 1:50 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, just one week after the robot field geologist arrived on the Red Planet.
A fully restored Spirit got back to work late last week on Gusev Crater, using her rock abrasion tool for the first time to brush, then grind into Adirondack. And before her first day back was done, the rover returned more surprises to the science team in the flow of research data she sent home, and reestablished the "international, interplanetary communication network" by exchanging communiqus with the European Space Agency's orbiter, Mars Express.
The Mars Exploration Rovers are really starting to 'show their stuff' on the Red Planet. Despite a couple of technological hiccups earlier in the week, the twin robot field geologists are getting down and dirty in the Martian soil.
Mars driving records are falling at Gusev Crater, as the rover Spirit continues its steady progress towards the nearby crater nicknamed "Bonneville." On Sol 43, which ended on the morning of Monday, February 16, Spirit drove 19 meters (62.3 feet) in the morning and another 8.5 meters (27.9 feet) in the afternoon. The total drive of 27.5 meters (90.2 feet), breaks the Mars one day drive record of 24.4 meters (80 feet), set by Spirit only 7 sols ago. The previous record holder Sojourner, rover of the 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission, had managed no more than 7 meters (23 feet) in a single sol.
Spirit and Opportunity continued their search for evidence of water at Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum this week, and a lot of excited and smiling faces have been emanating from behind the scenes, in the mission rooms at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
The Mars Exploration Rovers have sent home the first real prize of the mission - evidence of past liquid water on the Red Planet. Opportunity -- which landed five weeks ago inside a small crater near exposed bedrock -- has found evidence that Meridiani Planum was once "drenched with water," and, thus, was once suitable for life as we know it, mission scientists announced at a press conference held NASA Headquarters yesterday.
Four days after scientists announced that rocks examined by the rover Opportunity in Meridiani Planum were once soaked with water, Opportunity's twin Spirit made some headline news of its own. In a press conference this morning at the Jet Propulsion laboratory in Pasadena, Dr. Ray Arvidson, Deputy Principal Investigator for the rovers, announced that Spirit had discovered the telltale signs that some amount water had once been present in Gusev Crater as well.
After nearly two months of study, Opportunity has emerged from her landing crater at Meridiani Planum and onto "the shoreline of what was once a salty sea suitable for life," scientists announced at a special press conference held at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C., yesterday.
The Mars Exploration Rovers each focused their research efforts this week studying the rim of a crater. At Gusev, Spirit continued her study of Bonneville Crater, while at Meridiani Planum Opportunity spent most of her time driving around the southern and eastern portions of Eagle Crater conducting a soil survey of five targets.
The Mars Exploration Rovers continued to crank out scientific findings about Mars this week: Spirit sent home clues of past ground water at Gusev Crater; Opportunity set a one-day distance driving record and returned to the scene of her arrival, the rock she bounced off on upon landing at Meridiani Planum.
This week, the Mars Exploration Rovers team successfully installed the new flight software it was uploading to Spirit and Opportunity last weekend. Now, the rovers have enhanced capabilities that should make their remaining Martian sols even safe and more productive, announced Jan Chodas, flight software manager, at the weekly news briefing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
As Spirit continued her journey to the Columbia Hills in Gusev Crater, Opportunity cruised into her extended mission at Meridiani Planum this week, marking the milestone of the rovers' Martian adventure -- full mission success.
During the last three weeks, the Mars Exploration Rovers have been continuing to rove and explore their respective regions of Mars. Spirit has continued her trek to the Columbia Hills in the Gusev Crater area of Mars, while on the other side of the planet, at Meridiani Planum; Opportunity has been investigating Endurance Crater.
The Mars Exploration Rovers are each entering new chapters in their extended missions that are already returning more intriguing discoveries, but they are both beginning to slow down now as the Martian winter closes in on them.
The twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity continue their trek across the varied surface of the Red Planet, climbing hills and descending into a crater. After a two-month journey of over 3 kilometers through rocky terrain, Spirit has now begun climbing the Columbia Hills, which were seen on the horizon in the early panoramas taken from the landing site. The rover is expected to spend much of its remaining life climbing the hills and analyzing their geological make-up. Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Opportunity is carefully descending into the stadium-sized depression dubbed "Endurance Crater" by the MER team. The rocky formations revealed on the slopes of the crater promise to provide some of the richest sources for studying the geological history of Mars.
During the last four weeks, the Mars Exploration Rovers have braved the Martian winter to continue their geologic field work, sending home more evidence of past liquid water on the Red Planet and images of bizarre geologic formations the likes of which no one has seen before.
After nearly two weeks of sparse, infrequent communication, Spirit and Opportunity have survived winter solstice and resumed "reliable" contact with Earth and the Mars Exploration Rover team -- and NASA has extended funding for an additional six months of operations, as long as the little robot geologists keep working, space agency officials announced late Tuesday.
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