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Five Years on Mars

Trekwolf164

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Report this Jan. 07 2012, 6:19 pm


NASA has sent its Mars Rover, Opportunity, on its first winter working vacation since the solar-powered vehicle began exploring the red planet’s surface several years ago.

Similar to humans who travel to sunny locations during the winter, the robotic rover will spend the next several months literally soaking up sunlight. The U.S. space agency, NASA, says it positioned Opportunity with its solar panel angled toward the Sun to make sure the rover will have enough power to last for the duration of the long Martian winter.    

Mission scientists say it was not necessary for Opportunity to be kept in a Sun-facing position the previous four Martian winters because its landing site just south of the planet's equator gets relatively strong sunlight year-round. They decided to use the maneuver this year because the rover’s solar panels were caked with an unusually thick coating of dust.   

NASA says Opportunity is sitting on the slope of a rocky outcrop that lies along the rim of Mars’ 22-kilometer-wide Endeavour Crater. Scientists say they have identified a variety of interesting features for the rover to investigate with its robotic arm while its solar panels store up energy from the Sun. NASA says it does not plan to move the golf cart-sized vehicle more than a meter or two until June or July when Opportunity will resume its current mission exploring Endeavour Crater.

Opportunity’s twin rover, Spirit, was at a landing site farther from the equator, and spent all three of its Martian winters tilting it solar panel toward the Sun. Spirit is no longer functioning. It stopped communicating with mission control on Earth in March 2010.  

Even though the rovers landed on Mars in early 2004, they are now just entering their fifth Martian winter. That is because one year on Mars - the time it takes the planet to make one complete a solar orbit - is nearly twice as long as one year on Earth. That is, it takes Mars the equivalent of 687 Earth-days to make one lap around the Sun, while the Earth's solar orbit is complete in 365 days.

NASA says the site where Opportunity is spending the winter is informally named “Greeley Haven,” in honor of late planetary geologist Ronald Greeley, who was a member of the science team for the Mars rovers and other missions. Greeley died in October. Rover scientists hope to have the name made official.

NASA launched the Mars rovers Opportunity and Spirit in 2003. Their separate missions exploring the Martian surface were only scheduled to last for three months - until April 2004 - but both rovers continued operating for many years longer. NASA launched its newest Mars rover, Curiosity, in late November 2011. It is scheduled to touch down on the Martian surface in August.

Mars is one-third the size of the Earth. It is the fourth of eight planets in our solar system. Mars orbits the Sun between the Earth and the massive gas-giant planet, Jupiter.

The U.S. space agency is exploring Mars to learn more about its geological structure, climate and environment, as well as to search for evidence whether the planet had a habitable environment billions of years ago, before the loss of its magnetic field and atmosphere turned it into the dry, dusty, frozen world it is today.



www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcdZla4gKk0

caltrek2

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Report this Feb. 10 2012, 4:21 am

I came across this article and thought about this thread, so I thought I would go ahead and post it here.


http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/Opportunity-Takes-Bow-Gets-Rest-138098593.html


It's now Day 2,923 of Opportunity's 90-day-long mission to explore the Martian surface.



Martian rover
With a mass of roughly 400 pounds (180 kg), NASA's twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, were designed to operate for at least three months on the Red Planet. Each carries a suite of five instruments, collectively called Athena, and an abrasion tool for exposing fresh surfaces on rock faces.
NASA / JPL



Eight years ago today, this golf-cart-size vehicle thumped onto Meridiani Planum just three weeks after the arrival of its twin, Spirit. Assembled and launched on a tight schedule in response to the loss of NASA's two previous Mars missions, the rovers were equipped with cameras and spectrometers to help geologists learn whether and where water had coursed over the ruddy surface. The baseline mission for each was just 90 sols (Martian days) long.

Not even the most optimistic proponent could have foreseen that Opportunity would still be working — and fully functional — after all this time. Yet, in a way, this half of the mission was lucky from the start: it plopped right into a small crater full of easily accessed outcrops and scads of little round "blueberries" (hematite nodules) created in a watery environment long ago.




Opportunity at Cape York
Opportunity reached Cape York, on the western lip of Endeavour crater, in August 2011. It will spend the winter on a sunward-facing outcrop named Greeley Haven before resuming its exploration of the ancient, 14-mile-wide crater. The lower panel, recorded by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, is about 1,400 feet (430 m) across.
Top: NASA / JPL / MSSS; bottom: NASA / JPL / Univ. of Arizona



Today "Oppy" is perched on a rocky outcrop called Greeley Haven, a destination on the rim of Endeavour crater that the rover reached last August. To get there, it traversed 13 miles (22 km) over three years.

Now Martian winter is coming and, with it, diminished sunlight for the dust-covered "wings" that provide the craft with electricity. As a precaution, ground controllers have placed Opportunity on a sunny slope and tilted it for better solar exposure. It will remain there for several months until the Sun's rays start to strengthen in spring. (Spirit, located closer to the polar region, didn't survive the previous winter and has been silent since March 2010.)

Even while motionless, Opportunity will be pushing the boundaries of Martian science. "The top priority at Greeley Haven is a radio-science campaign to provide information about Mars's interior," says Diana Blaney, deputy project scientist, in a Jet Propulsion Laboratory press release. Doppler shifts in the rover's radio beacon provide a sensitive way to measure the wobble in the planet's rotation and, from that, an indication of whether the Martian core is molten.




Opportunity's dusty coating
Although Opportunity continues to function well, the tops of its solar-cell panels have become very dusty — which diminishes their ability to produce electricity. The images for this self portrait, taken in December 2011, were assembled by mission aficionados James Sorenson and reprojected by Doug Ellison. Click here for a larger version.
NASA / JPL / Cornell Univ. / J. Sorenson / D. Ellison



With a diameter of 14 miles (22 km), Endeavour is big and rich with geologic promise. Orbital scans suggest that it's an ancient feature with clays and other water-influenced compounds in its rim and basalt-rich deposits on its floor. The project team is eager to start exploring these with their seemingly indestructible rover.

In a sense, Opportunity has just begun a brand new mission — and I wouldn't be surprised if we'll be celebrating a new wave of discoveries — and the ninth anniversary of its landing — a year from now. By then it'll have some company: Curiosity, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory is now en route and should descend into Gale crater on August 6th.


As Americans, we sometimes suffer from too much pluribus and not enough unum. - Arthur Schelsinger, Jr.

Trekwolf164

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Report this Feb. 24 2012, 5:44 am

sols 2866-2872, February 15-21, 2012: More Doppler Tracking and Imaging


Opportunity is positioned on the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater with an approximate 15-degree northerly tilt for favorable solar energy production.


While positioned for the winter, Opportunity is conducting regular radio Doppler tracking measurements to support geo-dynamic investigations of the planet, in-situ (contact) science investigations of the rock target, "Amboy," and continued collection of Panoramic Camera (Pancam) images. The Mösssbauer spectrometer is currently on the surface target Amboy and is collecting a very long (multi-sol) integration. Radio Doppler tracking passes were performed on Sols 2866 (Feb. 15, 2012), and 2870 (Feb. 19, 2012). Additional 13-filter Pancam images of foreground targets were taken.


As of Sol 2872 (Feb. 21, 2012), solar array energy production was 277 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.684 and a solar array dust factor of 0.476.


Total odometry is unchanged at 21.35 miles (34,361.37 meters).


www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcdZla4gKk0

Trekwolf164

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Report this Apr. 03 2012, 3:10 pm

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE:  Slight Drop of Left-Front Wheel - sols 2901-2906, March 22-27, 2012, 2012:


Opportunity is positioned on the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater with an approximate 15-degree northerly tilt for favorable solar energy production.


Radio Doppler tracking passes for the geo-dynamic investigation were performed on Sols 2903 and 2904 (March 24 and 25, 2012). Atmospheric argon measurements were performed with the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer on Sols 2904 and 2905 (March 25 and 26, 2012). Additional Panoramic Camera (Pancam) images were taken on several sols.


The project is continuing to investigate the anomalies from Sol 2899 (March 20, 2012), that indicates apparent downward motion of the left-front wheel and a stall in the robotic arm (Instrument Deployment Device, or IDD). On Sols 2901, 2904 and 2906 (March 22, 25 and 27, 2012), further imaging of the rover's position and detail imaging of the Mössbauer (MB) spectrometer on the end of the IDD were performed along with a series of diagnostic robotic arm motions. The IDD moved without any problems. Motor currents and actuator motion were all nominal. Detailed images of the Mössbauer spectrometer showed no evidence of any off-nominal contact with the ground. Careful review of the left-front wheel suggests that the wheel might have moved more than one time, although these are very small motions (a few millimeters). No other wheel has shown any indication of motion. The project continues to assess the left-front wheel stability.


As of Sol 2906 (March 27, 2012), solar array energy production was 306 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.521 and a solar array dust factor of 0.488.


Total odometry is unchanged at 21.35 miles (34,361.37 meters).


Opportunity Update Archive




USA.gov
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www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcdZla4gKk0

Trekwolf164

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Report this May. 09 2012, 6:05 pm

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE:  Opportunity Getting Ready to Leave Her Winter Perch - sols 2927-2934, April 26, 2012 - May 01, 2012:


Opportunity is still positioned on the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater with an approximate 15-degree northerly tilt, but not for much longer.


With the improvement in solar insolation and the recent modest dust cleaning events on the solar arrays, the project has determined that the rover has sufficient energy resources to begin moving again on level terrain. Therefore, Opportunity will soon be backing down off her winter perch and resume driving on the near-level terrain around the north end of Cape York.


Radio Doppler tracking passes for the geo-dynamic investigation are continuing for now with passes performed on Sols 2935, 2936, 2937 and 2940 (April 26, 27, 28 and May 1, 2012). The project is also finishing the campaign of Microscopic Imager mosaics and Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer measurements of the extended region around the surface rock target "Amboy." These measurements were performed on Sols 2935, 2937 and 2940 (April 26, 28 and May 1, 2012). An extended thermal behavior test of the inertial measurement unit on the rover was performed on Sol 2938 (April 29, 2012), and found to be in good order.


As of Sol 2940 (May 1, 2012), solar array energy production was 365 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.480 and an improved solar array dust factor of 0.534.


Total odometry is unchanged at 21.35 miles (34,361.37 meters).


Opportunity Update Archive




USA.gov
 

www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcdZla4gKk0

Trekwolf164

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Report this May. 16 2012, 9:54 am

sols 2941-2947, May 01-08, 2012: Opportunity on the Road Again!


After being stationary for 130 sols during the winter, Opportunity has resumed driving again.


On Sol 2947 (May 8, 2012), the rover performed a 12-foot (3.7-meter) drive down from her winter perch, called "Greeley Haven." As expected, the rover's northerly tilt decrease from around 15 degrees down to about 8 degrees. All wheel currents, including the right-front wheel, were nominal. With this drive, Opportunity has concluded the radio Doppler geo-dynamics campaign with 60 radio Doppler tracking passes successfully accomplished over the winter.


The plan ahead is first to drive toward a nearby putative dusty target to examine the nature and origin of Martian dust, then locate a wider, light-toned vein around the north end of Cape York for further in-situ investigation, among other objectives.


As of Sol 2947 (May 8, 2012), solar array energy production was 357 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.476 and a solar array dust factor of 0.526.


Total odometry is 21.35 miles (34,365.04 meters).



www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcdZla4gKk0

Trekwolf164

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Report this May. 24 2012, 5:36 am

sols 2948-2955, May 09-17, 2012: Opportunity Drives to Dusty Patch of Soil


The rover drove on Sols 2949, 2951, 2953 and 2955 (May 10, 12, 14 and 17, 2012), totaling just over 46 feet (13.9 meters).


The rover is positioning to reach a pristine patch of dust on the surface. The plan ahead is to use the robotic arm instruments to investigate the patch of dust. Dust covers much of Mars and this patch is an opportunity to perhaps determine the origin of the dust from its chemical signature.


As of Sol 2954 (May 16, 2012), solar array energy production was 359 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.423 and a solar array dust factor of 0.532.


Total odometry is 21.36 miles (34,380.58 meters).


www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcdZla4gKk0

Trekwolf164

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Report this May. 31 2012, 5:44 pm

sols 2962-2968, May 24-30, 2012: On The Hunt For Light-Toned Veins Of Gypsum


Opportunity completed her in-situ (contact) investigation of a dust patch on the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater. The rover is now on the hunt for more light-toned veins of gypsum.


On Sol 2963 (May 25, 2012), Opportunity headed north with an approximately 82-foot (25-meter) drive, keeping a careful watch on the terrain. With the season still early spring, the rover must keep a small bias towards northerly tilts in order to generate healthy energy margins. On Sol 2965 (May 27, 2012), Opportunity headed further to the north end of Cape York, in an area referred to as "the bench," a flat curb-like unit that forms the perimeter of Cape York. With the arrival in the bench area, Opportunity is spying several vein candidates, looking for one that is wide enough to grind with the Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) and sample with the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS).


The plan ahead is to approach some of these vein candidates for closer inspection. The recent driving has shallowed out the northerly tilt somewhat, so energy levels have moderated a bit.


As of Sol 2968 (May 30, 2012), solar array energy production was 345 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.413 and a solar array dust factor of 0.538.


Total odometry is 21.41 miles (34,456.53 meters).




sols 2956-2961, May 18-23, 2012: Waking Up with the Sun's Rays


After moving from her winter perch, Opportunity drove to an undisturbed dusty patch to investigate the chemical origin of the ubiquitous Martian dust.


On Sol 2957 (May 19, 2012), the rover used her robotic arm to collect a Microscopic Imager (MI) mosaic of the surface target, called "North Pole." This was followed by an Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) placement for a multi-sol integration. On Sol 2960 (May 22, 2012), Opportunity repositioned the robotic arm instruments on an associated target for another set of Microscopic Imager mosaics followed by a placement of the APXS for a long measurement.


The plan ahead is to resume driving toward the north end of Cape York in search of more gypsum veins. The rover benefited from another small dust cleaning event, improving solar array energy production. With the seasonally improving solar insolation and the recent dust clearing events, the rover is now experiencing solar array wake-ups, the autonomous rover wake-ups induced by bright morning sunlight.


As of Sol 2961 (May 23, 2012), solar array energy production was 395 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.387 and an improved solar array dust factor of 0.559.


Total odometry is 21.36 miles (34,380.58 meters).


www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcdZla4gKk0

Trekwolf164

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Report this Jun. 14 2012, 3:42 pm

sols 2975-2980, June 06-11, 2012: Slow Going Due to Communication Issues


Opportunity has been investigating light-toned veins around the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater.


Recently, things became complicated, first by Mars Odyssey orbiter going into safe mode, leaving Opportunity without timely relay support, and then by a missed Ultra High Frequency (UHF) relay pass with Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Sol 2976 (June 7, 2012). The project responded to the missed UHF pass by sending real-time commands to the rover on Sol 2977 (June 8, 2012), to elicit a response to make sure Opportunity was okay.


Further, the project asked MRO to change the data rate on the next relay pass to ensure lock-up under poor Signal to Noise Ratio conditions. The missed relay pass was likely the result of poor relay geometry between the orbiter and rover. With Odyssey unavailable for relay support for a number of days, the MER project converted several future rover Deep Space Network tracking passes from "Direct from Earth" to "Direct to Earth" to return some telemetry directly over the rover's X-band system.


The plans forward for Opportunity have been modest, mostly remote sensing, owing to the lack of relay support from Odyssey. A bump of the rover was sequenced for Sol 2981 (June 12, 2012). This will be followed by a MRO UHF relay pass to return the drive results.


As of Sol 2977 (June 8, 2012), solar array energy production was 388 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.338 and a solar array dust factor of 0.567.


Total odometry is 21.42 (34,469.86 meters).




sols 2969-2974, May 31 - June 05, 2012: Robotic Arm Gets to Work on Veins of Gypsum


Opportunity is investigating light-toned veins around the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater.


On Sol 2969 (May 31, 2012), the rover drove 36 feet (11 meters) to the northeast to approach one of these putative gypsum veins. On Sol 2971 (June 2, 2012), Opportunity bumped about 8 feet (2.3 meters) to place the vein, now called "Monte Cristo," within the work volume of the robotic arm. Taking advantage of the 3-sol weekend plan, the rover included an atmospheric argon measurement by the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) on Sol 2972 (June 3, 2012). On Sol 2974 (June 5, 2012), Opportunity began the in-situ (contact) investigation of the vein Monte Cristo with a Microscopic Imager (MI) mosaic of an exposed portion of the vein, followed by the placement of the APXS for a multi-sol integration.


As of Sol 2974 (June 5, 2012), solar array energy production was 369 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.364 and a slightly improved solar array dust factor of 0.562.


Total odometry is 21.42 miles (34,469.86 meters).



www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcdZla4gKk0

Trekwolf164

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Report this Jun. 26 2012, 3:38 pm

sols 2981-2989, June 12-20, 2012: Opportunity Drives A Little


Opportunity has been exploring the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater.


With Mars Odyssey still working to recover from their safe mode event, Ultra High Frequency (UHF) relay for the rover has been limited to just two UHF relay passes per week from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. From a combination of the limited MRO relay and the use of Direct-to-Earth X-band passes on the rover, Opportunity was able to perform some driving.


On Sol 2981 (June 12, 2012), the rover drove a little over 56 feet (17 meters) to the north, approaching the boundary between the Cape York geologic unit and the Meridiani plains. On Sol 2989 (June 20, 2012), Opportunity bumped just over 16 feet (5 meters) north to straddle the contact unit between Cape York and Meridiani, and position a candidate target within the work volume of the robotic arm. Opportunity also performed two atmospheric argon measurements on Sols 2982 and 2987 (June 13 and June 18, 2012), using the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer.


The rover continues to benefit from solar array dust cleaning events, which have greatly increased the daily energy production. As of Sol 2989 (June 20, 2012), solar array energy production was 526 watt-hours with a lower atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.229 and an improved solar array dust factor of 0.684.


Total odometry is 21.43 miles (34,491.99 meters).


www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcdZla4gKk0

Trekwolf164

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Report this Aug. 02 2012, 7:06 am

sols 3017-3022, July 19-24, 2012: Opportunity Picks Up the Pace With Several Drives This Week


Opportunity is roving at the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater.


Progress was again impacted by a second safe mode entry by the Mars Odyssey orbiter. With normal Ultra-High Frequency relay with Odyssey restored, Opportunity was able to drive on Sol 3019 (July 21, 2012).


That drive, of over 138 feet (42 meters), was a "V" trajectory with the rover first driving toward the small impact crater named "Sao Gabriel" for mid-drive imaging, then a near reverse drive away toward the geologic cut called "Whim Creek."


On Sol 3021 (July 23, 2012), Opportunity drove across Whim Creek with a 33 foot (10 meter) drive toward some surface targets. On the next Sol, the rover collected a Microscopic Imager mosaic of the target "Mons Cupri" before placing the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer down on the same. The plan ahead is some more driving before the operational stand-down around the time of the landing for Curiosity.


As of Sol 3022 (July 24, 2012), the solar array energy production was 507 watt-hours with an elevated atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.772 and an improved solar array dust factor of 0.727.


Total odometry is 21.52 miles (34,633.40 meters).



www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcdZla4gKk0

randy kerr

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Report this Aug. 02 2012, 3:36 pm

that is so awesome.

Trekwolf164

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Report this Aug. 10 2012, 12:40 pm

sols 3030-3035, August 02-07, 2012: With Curiosity on the Surface Opportunity Will Resume Driving Soon


Activity has been constrained for the period around the arrival of Curiosity. The project pre-planned 9 sols of activity so as not to require Deep Space Network tracking coverage during the Mars Science Laboratory's Entry, Descent and Landing. Opportunity performed Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer overnight integrations on Sols 3030, 3031, 3033 and 3034 (Aug. 2, Aug. 3, Aug. 5 and Aug. 6, 2012) on the surface target "Rushall1." Multi-filter Panoramic Camera images were collected of "Whim Creek" on Sols 3031 and 3032 (Aug. 3, and Aug. 4, 2012). Daily atmospheric opacity measurements were also performed. With Curiosity safely on the surface, the plan ahead for Opportunity is to resume driving.


As of Sol 3035 (Aug. 7, 2012), the solar array energy production was 531 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.715 and a solar array dust factor of 0.707.


Total odometry is 21.52 (34,639.45 meters).


www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcdZla4gKk0

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