[meteorite-list] Healthy Spirit Cleans a Mars Rock; Opportunity Rolls

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 10:31:20 2004
Message-ID: <200402070002.QAA15472_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Guy Webster (818) 354-5011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Donald Savage (202) 358-1547
NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE: 2004-053 February 6, 2004

Healthy Spirit Cleans a Mars Rock; Opportunity Rolls

NASA's Spirit has returned to full health and resumed doing things never
attempted on Mars before.

"Our patient is healed, and we're very excited about that," said
Jennifer Trosper of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.,
mission manager for Spirit.

Spirit temporarily stopped communicating Jan. 22; the problem was later
diagnosed as a memory-management issue. Engineers regained partial
control of the spacecraft within days and reformatted Spirit's flash
memory Wednesday to prevent recurrence of the problem.

JPL's Glenn Reeves, flight software architect for the Mars Exploration
Rovers, said Friday, "We're confident we know what the problem is, and
we have a procedure in place we believe can work around this problem

Spirit's first day of science operations after the memory reformatting
featured the first brushing of a rock on a foreign planet to remove dust
and allow inspection of the rock's cleaned surface. Steel bristles on
the rover's rock abrasion tool cleaned a circular patch on the rock
unofficially named Adirondack. The tool's main function is to grind off
the weathered surface of rocks with diamond teeth, but the brush for
removing the grinder's cuttings can also be used to sweep dust off the
intact surface.

The brushing on Thursday was the first use of a rock abrasion tool by
either Spirit or its twin rover, Opportunity. The brush swirled for
five minutes, said Stephen Gorevan of Honeybee Robotics, New York, lead
scientist for the rock abrasion tools on both rovers.

"I didn't expect much of a difference. This is a big surprise," Gorevan
said about a picture showing the brushed area is much darker than the
rest of the rock's surface. "Ladies and gentlemen, I present you the
greatest interplanetary brushing of all time."

One reason scientists first selected Adirondack for close inspection is
because it appeared relatively dust free compared to some other rocks
nearby. "To our surprise, there was quite a bit of dust on the
surface," said Dr. Ken Herkenhoff of the U.S. Geological Survey's
Astrogeology Team, Flagstaff, Ariz., lead scientist for the rovers'
microscopic imagers.

Spirit was instructed Friday afternoon to grind the surface of
Adirondack with the rock abrasion tool. After the grinding, the turret
of tools at the end of the rover's robotic arm will be rotated to
inspect the freshly exposed interior of the rock. Controllers plan to
tell Spirit tomorrow to begin driving again.

Meanwhile, halfway around Mars, NASA's Opportunity drove early Friday
for the second day in a row. It arrived within about a half a meter (20
inches) of the northeastern end of a rock outcrop scientists are eager
for the rover to examine. "We expect to complete that approach
tomorrow," said JPL's Matt Wallace, mission manager for Opportunity.

During Friday's drive, Opportunity did not travel as far as planned. The
rover is climbing a slope of about 13 degrees, and the shortage in
distance traveled is probably due to slippage in the soil, Wallace said.

The main task for both rovers is to explore the areas around their
landing sites for evidence in rocks and soils about whether those areas
ever had environments that were watery and possibly suitable for
sustaining life.

Each martian day, or "sol," lasts about 40 minutes longer than an Earth
day. Spirit begins its 35th sol on Mars at 4:02 a.m. Saturday, Pacific
Standard Time. Opportunity begins its 15th sol on Mars at 4:23 p.m.
Saturday, PST.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena,
manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Office of Space
Science, Washington, D.C. Images and additional information about the
project are available from JPL at


and from Cornell University at

http://athena.cornell.edu/ .

Received on Fri 06 Feb 2004 07:02:17 PM PST

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