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TOPIC: Mars Exploration Rover Spirit


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This panorama was taken by the Spirit rover on Sol 2176.
SpiritSol2176b.jpg
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Credit: NASA/JPL


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This image was taken by the Spirit rover on Sol 2175.

SpiritSol2175b.jpg
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Credit: NASA/JPL

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SPIRIT UPDATE:  Spirit Parks for the Winter - sols 2166-2170, February 5-9, 2010:

Spirit is now parked for the winter in the embedded area called "Troy" on the west side of Home Plate.

The last winter-preparatory movement of the rover was commanded on Sol 2169 (Feb. 8, 2010). The rover was commanded to flatten the suspension system on the right side and accentuate the suspension wheelie on the left side, all to enhance northerly tilt. Very little change in tilt was achieved.

At this point, the project is now adjusting various rover parameters and positioning the robotic arm for the winter period. The communication window for various fault conditions has been adjusted to the optimal time of day during the coldest part of the winter. A special table of long-range UHF communication passes is being developed to cover the entire winter period and beyond.

As of Sol 2170 (Feb. 9, 2010), the rover solar array energy production was to 185 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (tau) of 0.292 and a dust factor of 0.527. Total odometry is 7,730.50 metres.

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This image was taken by the Spirit rover on Sol 2150.

SpiSol2150b.jpg
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Credit: NASA/JPL

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SPIRIT UPDATE:  Improving Northerly Tilt - sols 2159-2165, January 29 - February 4, 2010:

Spirit is still embedded in the area called "Troy" on the west side of Home Plate.

Energy levels for Spirit have been decreasing rapidly as winter approaches. To increase energy production and to prepare for winter, the rover mobility system is being driven to improve northerly tilt.

On Sol 2161 (Jan. 31, 2010), Spirit drove her wheels backwards, employing several autonomous recovery techniques to prevent early termination of the drive from mobility faults. These autonomous recovery techniques have been effective in permitting the driving to continue much further than otherwise. Several centimetres of backward progress were made by the rover without further sinkage. Northerly tilt improved by about a degree. Every degree in improvement in northerly tilt enhances daily energy production by about 5 watt-hours.

On Sol 2165 (Feb. 4, 2010), another drive was sequenced. This drive achieved less progress and had only a modest improvement in tilt. The next drive plan is to cause the rover suspension to lift one side of the rover, improving northerly tilt. This is likely to be the last rover motion before winter, as energy levels are dropping below levels able to sustain driving. The project is configuring the rover's communication settings and fault parameters in preparation for the winter.

As of Sol 2165 (Feb. 1, 2010), the rover solar array energy production was to 188 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (tau) of 0.359 and a dust factor of 0.523. Total odometry is 7,730.48 metres.

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NASA's beleaguered Mars rover Spirit may no longer be much of a rover, but it's not the end of the road for her yet. The semi-stuck robot still has plenty of science left to do on the red planet, mission scientists say.

"There's actually a whole class of scientific objectives that you can only address from a vehicle that doesn't move. So far we've pretty much tended to ignore those" - rover mission principal investigator Steven Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

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This image was taken by the Spirit rover on Sol 2158.

SpiritSol2158b.jpg
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Credit: NASA/JPL

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Spirit is stuck but remains functional and will live out its life as a stationary science platform, collecting data on the area where it ran into trouble in April.
NASA had been trying since November to free the rover in an effort to back it out of a patch of sandy soil where its wheels had become embedded.
The US space agency determined that there soon would not be enough solar power to drive Spirit, so instead of trying to free it, they will focus efforts on getting the rover tilted to take advantage of the weaker winter sun. The Martian winter begins in May at the rovers location.

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After six years of unprecedented exploration of the Red Planet, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit no longer will be a fully mobile robot. NASA has designated the once-roving scientific explorer a stationary science platform after efforts during the past several months to free it from a sand trap have been unsuccessful.
The venerable robot's primary task in the next few weeks will be to position itself to combat the severe Martian winter. If Spirit survives, it will continue conducting significant new science from its final location. The rover's mission could continue for several months to years.

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