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  Mars Exploration Rovers: Spirit and Opportunity (Page 4)

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Author Topic:   Mars Exploration Rovers: Spirit and Opportunity
Scott
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posted 03-23-2004 02:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by spaceuk:
I was sent an image to JPL taken by Spirit showing the East Hills/Columbia Hills in background on what appeared - on first glance - to be a dust storm blowing across the hills.
Phill, do you recall what sol the image was taken on so I can look it up? Or better yet a link to the image? Was it the series of images of the hills taken to make the panorama of Bonneville Crater?

That is interesting.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-23-2004 02:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
Standing Body Of Water Left Its Mark In Mars Rocks

NASA's Opportunity rover has demonstrated some rocks on Mars probably formed as deposits at the bottom of a body of gently flowing saltwater.

"We think Opportunity is parked on what was once the shoreline of a salty sea on Mars," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the science payload on Opportunity and its twin Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit.

Clues gathered so far do not tell how long or how long ago liquid water covered the area. To gather more evidence, the rover's controllers plan to send Opportunity out across a plain toward a thicker exposure of rocks in the wall of a crater.

NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Science Dr. Ed Weiler said, "This dramatic confirmation of standing water in Mars' history builds on a progression of discoveries about that most Earthlike of alien planets. This result gives us impetus to expand our ambitious program of exploring Mars to learn whether microbes have ever lived there and, ultimately, whether we can."

"Bedding patterns in some finely layered rocks indicate the sand-sized grains of sediment that eventually bonded together were shaped into ripples by water at least five centimeters (two inches) deep, possibly much deeper, and flowing at a speed of 10 to 50 centimeters (four to 20 inches) per second," said Dr. John Grotzinger, rover science-team member from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

In telltale patterns, called crossbedding and festooning, some layers within a rock lie at angles to the main layers. Festooned layers have smile-shaped curves produced by shifting of the loose sediments' rippled shapes under a current of water.

"Ripples that formed in wind look different than ripples formed in water," Grotzinger said. "Some patterns seen in the outcrop that Opportunity has been examining might have resulted from wind, but others are reliable evidence of water flow," he said.

According to Grotzinger, the environment at the time the rocks were forming could have been a salt flat, or playa, sometimes covered by shallow water and sometimes dry. Such environments on Earth, either at the edge of oceans or in desert basins, can have currents of water that produce the type of ripples seen in the Mars rocks.

A second line of evidence, findings of chlorine and bromine in the rocks, also suggests this type of environment. Rover scientists presented some of that news three weeks ago as evidence the rocks had at least soaked in mineral-rich water, possibly underground water, after they formed. Increased assurance of the bromine findings strengthens the case rock-forming particles precipitated from surface water as salt concentrations climbed past saturation while water was evaporating.

Dr. James Garvin, lead scientist for Mars and lunar exploration at NASA Headquarters, Washington, said, "Many features on the surface of Mars that orbiting spacecraft have revealed to us in the past three decades look like signs of liquid water, but we have never before had this definitive class of evidence from the martian rocks themselves. We planned the Mars Exploration Rover Project to look for evidence like this, and it is succeeding better than we had any right to hope. Someday we must collect these rocks and bring them back to terrestrial laboratories to read their records for clues to the biological potential of Mars."

Squyres said, "The particular type of rock Opportunity is finding, with evaporite sediments from standing water, offers excellent capability for preserving evidence of any biochemical or biological material that may have been in the water."

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., expect Opportunity and Spirit to operate several months longer than the initial rover's three-month prime missions on Mars. To analyze hints of crossbedding, mission controllers programmed Opportunity to move its robotic arm more than 200 times in one day, taking 152 microscope pictures of layering in a rock called "Last Chance."

Blackarrow
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posted 03-23-2004 07:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anyone know whether "Opportunity" will visit its backshell and parachute on the way from "Eagle crater" to the nearby large crater? It doesn't look like much of a detour, and as someone said on a different topic, the impact of the backshell will have created a nice new crater to allow easy access to the subsurface material. It seems an obvious plan, but will it be done?

spaceuk
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posted 03-24-2004 04:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think the MER engineering teams have to be congratulated here as well as the PI's doing the geology. The fact that the robotic arm was positioned some 200 times in one day on a hostile planetary environment has to be applauded. This was almost unthinkable - even a few short years ago - and the fact we witness the downloaded images everyday - well its just great.

Pity some of the early space pioneers cannot see these exciting events but they too can take credit for having laid the foundations.

Let us all here continue thrusting forward in the exploration and utilisation of space.

Phill
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spaceuk
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posted 03-25-2004 10:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Scott:
Phill, do you recall what sol the image was taken on so I can look it up?
I found two images of the same area and I now believe that the 'dust storm' is in fact different coloured geological areas.

The two images are:

  • 2P131157917EFF1129P2431R2M1-BR
  • 2P130265595EFF0700P2543R1M1-BR
You want to be looking at the lighter areas on the left hand shank of the hills.

The original image I was looking at (which is not either of the two above and whose number I can't locate - though I have image here under different name on my machine) was taken from a slightly different angle and it looked like dust was 'blowing' of that same shank area.

Phill

spaceuk
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posted 03-25-2004 10:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Subsequently, I have looked at a couple of other images of the same area and am now fairly convinced that the light area is just that - lighter geological rea on the hill. Shame!

It just shows you that gotta be pretty careful when trying to read too much into some images.

Phill

Scott
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posted 03-26-2004 06:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That would be cool, but probably not. NASA today released a picture of the hills in the distance with the phrase "head for the hills", so I took from that that Spirit will be heading straight there now. The backshell is on the other side of the crater so it will probably be unvisited.

Scott
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posted 03-26-2004 07:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So sorry. I must be blind. You were talking about Opportunity and I was talking about Spirit.

Yes I think that would be a very good idea to visit them as it would be really cool and as you mention they are on the way to the crater.

spaceuk
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posted 03-27-2004 11:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It looks like we may get to know better as I see JPL/NASA are heading Spirit towards the base of the East Hills taking some 60 sols or so to get there. Great!

Blackarrow
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posted 03-27-2004 01:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scott, I hadn't noticed the "head for the hills" comment about "Spirit", so it certainly looks like the heat-shield will not be visited. It also seems a pity, after spending so long getting to Bonneville crater that "Spirit" won't be driving down into it. I suppose this is because the crater's interior doesn't look quite as interesting as was expected.

As for "Opportunity" I've just seen a Mars Global Surveyor image showing Eagle crater, the position of the backshell/parachute and the large crater. It would actually be a big detour, so perhaps they won't go there either.

Scott
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posted 03-28-2004 09:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To show the breadth of the readers of cS: I received a friendly email yesterday from a JPL scientist who worked on the DIMES (the MER descent imaging system that took 3 photos to estimate altitude, velocity, etc. right before the retro-rockets fired), including the field tests in the desert to see if it worked. He had been reading this thread and told me that he hopes Opportunity will visit the parachute and backshell but doesn't know if it will. I thought that was pretty cool.

Ben
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posted 03-28-2004 05:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ben   Click Here to Email Ben     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nope, looks like Opportunity is heading opposite where the chute and backshell is, towards the giant crater on the right.

Blackarrow
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posted 03-29-2004 05:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The big crater is definitely the next target...but the heat-shield impact point is not too far from the crater. That could be a future target...

spaceuk
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posted 04-09-2004 12:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Spirit has taken a pretty spectacular image of Sun rise over "...them thar hills".

spaceuk
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posted 04-19-2004 10:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Opportunity did a record 'sprint' on Mars towards its goal of Endurance Crater - which it should be reaching late Monday early Tuesday.

It covered 141 metres in one day at the cracking pace of 40 metres/hour!

Phill

spaceuk
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posted 04-20-2004 12:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Really great images of the crater Endurance that Opportunity is now visiting.

Its probably more exciting than the original landing area crater with its exposed 'bedrock'.

Phill

spaceuk
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posted 04-20-2004 03:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by spaceuk:
Really great images of the crater Endurance that Opportunity is now visiting.
Apologies. The image is of rocks at the smaller crater Fram.

Still great image/s though.

The rover Opportunity - I now understand - will reach Endurance later this week - possibly Wednesday.

Phill

spaceuk
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posted 04-28-2004 09:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I see that the crater Endurance is looming into closer and closer viewing for Opportunity.

It looks like we'll be in for some exciting photography - especially of the 'far rim' of the crater.

Philip
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posted 04-29-2004 02:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Have you seen the panorama taken by Spirit on its way to the Columbia hills last Wednesday? It cast a shadow of the complete rover in front of it ...insanely great!

Scott
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posted 05-02-2004 12:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
These pictures are great.

Here are two of the most recent Opportunity images of Endurance coming into view. You can even make out the hematite "blueberries" in the extreme foreground.

Scott
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posted 05-03-2004 04:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Opportunity has arrived at Endurance Crater.

Blackarrow
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posted 05-03-2004 05:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That's an amazing sight! Looking into the depths of Endurance Crater reminds me of how I felt when the Apollo 17 TV camera panned across the floor of Shorty crater for the first time. Shorty is a much smaller crater, but it was the only crater that an Apollo TV camera had a REALLY good look into, and it really looked like everyone's idea of a "typical" crater. So does Endurance. I'm not a geologist (although following the Apollo missions made me very interested in geology) but the view inside Endurance confirms what I had been thinking about Opportunity's landing site. That light-coloured rock, first seen in the walls of Eagle Crater and seen frequently on the traverse to Endurance, seems to underlie the whole area, with a thin covering of the dark gravel material on top. It can be seen right around the rim of Endurance, and anywhere else on the plains where a meteor has dug down below the surface. If the light rock has been laid down in shallow water, then it looks like the whole area where Opportunity landed was once under water. That's my assessment - anyone agree or disagree?

Scott
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posted 05-03-2004 07:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree. Makes sense to me.

spaceuk
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posted 05-05-2004 02:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
More images of far rim seem to indicate other layers of rock as well suggesting a varied past geological history.

I'm looking toward when Spirit gets closer to perhaps see any layers in the Columbia Hills. Images still a bit too indistinct at this time.

Scott
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posted 05-06-2004 04:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Scott:
Opportunity has arrived at Endurance Crater.
Now in color.

spaced out
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posted 05-06-2004 06:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If your internet link can download it and your PC can handle it, I'd highly recommend getting the 26.7Mb high-res version of that color panorama of Endurance!

Zooming in and out of the picture it feels like you could reach out and pick up the 'blueberries' in the foreground, and crater itself looks stunning. Cliffs of what look like sedimentary rock layers, rockfalls, boulders, and that surreal looking windswept sand in the middle all add up to a stunning view.

For my money (ok so it's really US tax dollars - but who's counting?) this is the most impressive Mars shot to date.

spaceuk
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posted 05-13-2004 03:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Spirit is now only 3/4 mile from the base of the Columbia Hills .

They are looming ever larger in the images being beamed back and some coarse detail can now be seen in the hills.

Philip
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posted 06-15-2004 05:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Next to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory website, we can also follow the day-by-day excursion of the MER rovers here.

spaceuk
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posted 06-18-2004 01:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well - Spirit made it. Images mainly as expected but all interesting just the same.

Let's hope that the vehicle lasts out to explore further up the hill/s.

Well done JPL, NASA etc.

Philip
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posted 06-29-2004 06:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Phill, NASA-JPL rover teams are already searching "safe places" to direct the rover to in order to have a better chance to survive the upcoming Martian winter... although both MER are near the Martian equator, snowfrost will cover their landing areas... I hope they can last through the winter (remember Viking landers worked for 5 years but these had a nuclear power supply and the MER only have 6 solar panels to charge the lithium batteries).

Philip
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posted 07-18-2004 04:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Meanwhile on Mars...

Spirit's right frontwheel is now clearly showing signs of aging to a point where NASA-JPL engineers considerer driving the Rover backwards...

spaceuk
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posted 08-04-2004 07:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The results from the alpha particle spectrometer on the rock "Diamond Jenness" will be interesting to see when released by the MER team.

Opportunity has had a tough time trying to drill through this rock layer last few days.

spaceuk
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posted 08-19-2004 06:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some very 'nice' images coming back from Spirit in its Sol 216-222 period.

I particularly like the 'distance' shots where the hills forming the crater can be seen. Sort of evokes me to go and visit them.

Philip
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posted 08-25-2004 12:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA-JPL is searching a good spot for both the Mars Exploration Rovers to 'survive' the Martian winter... It's amazing what they accomplished, 2 perfect functioning rovers sending back about 100 MegaBytes information per day... Superb work by NASA-JPL!!!

Blackarrow
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posted 08-25-2004 06:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Philip, I agree, but do you feel as frustrated as I do when you see that another 126 images have been downloaded, only to find that about 3 are "proper" images and the rest are those endlessly and (surely) needlessly repeated images of the sun, and the top of the rover? OK, they need to image the sun for various reasons, but why, why, why do it so many times? Again and again and again and again... Does anyone out there know why? It drives me mad to see those endless, meaningless engineering images!

spaceuk
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posted 08-26-2004 05:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The images of the 'sundial' on top of rover are imaged as part of the educational programme lessons that were organised by Planetary Society (if I recall correctly - will check when I get home later) to enable schools to take part. Also, the magnets are on the top as well and you can see these in same image normally. I'm not certain why they image the sun so often - unless maybe for nav fixes or maybe seeing if any aerosols/dust obscuring view and therefore an atmospheric type experiment?

But, yes, I agree that so many images of the above almost seem a waste of imaging capability.

spaceuk
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posted 08-26-2004 12:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's the Mars Sun Dial - it was Planetary Society.

Phill Parker
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Philip
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posted 08-26-2004 01:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's a unique thing that NASA-JPL is providing ALL raw images of the rovers... something we could only dream of during the days of Viking in 1976 (we had to wait to get our hands on the NASA Special Publications on the Lander and orbiter imaging Atlases).

Images of the vehicle give a lot of information on general condition, position, dust accumulation etc..

Hope these MERs will last another 4 months!

Philip
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posted 08-28-2004 01:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Have you all seen the image of the hole made by the rock abrasion tool of Spirit in the rock named Clovis (image P2569)?

For an obvious reason I had to think about the image of a deployed Beagle 2 lander when I saw the imprint on the right of the hole.

FFrench
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posted 08-28-2004 03:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was thinking for a second that 60's fashion design house Mary Quant had paid for their logo to be drilled on a Mars rock...


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