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PostPosted: 16 Oct 2007, 12:29 
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NASA Extends Mars Rover Mission a Fifth Time
By SPACE.com Staff

posted: 15 October 2007
05:29 pm ET

NASA has extended the activities of the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity for a fifth time.

The decision, announced today, could keep the robotic Martian explorers active through 2009.

"We are extremely happy to be able to further the exploration of Mars," said Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "The rovers are amazing machines, and they continue to produce amazing scientific results operating far beyond their design life."


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PostPosted: 05 Nov 2007, 22:08 
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I still think this is so cool.

And some people think we don't need a space program...


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PostPosted: 21 Feb 2008, 11:57 
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Mars Rovers Sharpen Questions About Livable Conditions

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2008) — Like salt used as a preservative, high concentrations of dissolved minerals in the wet, early-Mars environment known from discoveries by NASA's Opportunity rover may have thwarted any microbes from developing or surviving.

...

Elachi cited the achievements of Spirit and Opportunity. "They have worked 16 times longer than planned, driven 20 times farther than planned, and, most important, found diverse geological records of the effects of water in ancient Martian environments," he said. "We must not let these successes lull us into thinking this type of exploration is easy. Fifty years into the Space Age, we are still in the golden age of robotic exploration of our solar system, when each mission is unprecedented in some way as we push the limits of what is possible. Each mission presents new challenges."

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PostPosted: 14 May 2009, 09:54 
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Spirit Rover Stuck in Martian Dirt

SPACE.com - NASA's Spirit rover has encountered a problem on Mars that is familiar to most drivers on Earth: it is stuck in dirt and spinning its wheels.

The five wheels that still rotate on the robot have been slipping severely in soft dirt during recent driving attempts, sinking the wheels about halfway into the ground.

The rover team of engineers and scientists has suspended driving Spirit temporarily while studying the ground around the rover and planning simulation tests of driving options with a test rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

"Spirit is in a very difficult situation," said JPL's John Callas, project manager for Spirit and its twin rover, Opportunity. "We are proceeding methodically and cautiously. It may be weeks before we try moving Spirit again. Meanwhile, we are using Spirit's scientific instruments to learn more about the physical properties of the soil that is giving us trouble."

Both Spirit and Opportunity have been trundling across the Martian surface for more than five years now, far surpassing their original three-month missions. Opportunity is currently on the opposite side of the planet from Spirit, making its way to its next target, Endeavour Crater.

...

Spirit's right-front wheel stopped working three years ago. Since then the six-wheeled robot has been driving backward to circumvent the problem. Driving with just five powered wheels while dragging or pushing an immobile wheel adds to the challenge of the current situation.

In 2005, rover controllers had to dig Opportunity out of its own quagmire, when all six of its wheels were stuck in a deep sand dune.

On a more positive note, wind has removed some of the dust accumulated on Spirit's solar panels three times in the last month, increasing the rover's capability for generating electricity.

...

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PostPosted: 15 May 2009, 12:10 
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Hex wrote:
Mars Rovers Sharpen Questions About Livable Conditions

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2008) — Like salt used as a preservative, high concentrations of dissolved minerals in the wet, early-Mars environment known from discoveries by NASA's Opportunity rover may have thwarted any microbes from developing or surviving.

I wouldn't bet on that, because Earth organisms can be found in a variety of extreme conditions, organisms called extremophiles. Some of them can tolerate extreme salt concentrations (halophiles), and some of the extreme sugar concentrations (osmophiles), so extreme solute concentrations may present no difficulty for whatever Martian organisms there might be.

(lots of stuff about the two rovers still going...)

Remarkable.


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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 23:07 
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I find it amazing.

I remember being thrilled when they were running for a whole 6 months longer than planned...

They are great.

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PostPosted: 20 May 2009, 08:13 
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Mars Probes Team Up to Save Stuck Rover

SPACE.com - NASA is pulling out all the stops to try to get the mired Spirit rover out of the Martian sand and rolling again.

NASA's rover project team is using the Spirit rover and other spacecraft at Mars to begin developing the best maneuvers for extracting Spirit from the soft Martian ground where it has become embedded.

...

A diagnostic test on May 16 provided some encouraging news: electrical resistance in the left middle wheel is within the expected range for a motor that has not failed.

"This is not a full exoneration of the wheel, but it is encouraging," said John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project manager for Spirit and its twin rover, Opportunity. "We're taking incremental steps. Next, we'll command that wheel to rotate a degree or two. The other wheels will be kept motionless, so this is not expected to alter the position of the vehicle."

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The rover team is using Opportunity to test a procedure for possible use by Spirit: looking underneath the rover with the microscopic imager camera that is mounted on the end of the rover's arm. This might be a way to see whether Spirit is, in fact, touching the rocks beneath it.

...

NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter is also aiding in the Spirit recovery plan. As a result of winds blowing dust off Spirit's solar panel four times in the past month, Spirit now has enough power to add an extra communication session each day. The Odyssey project has made the orbiter available for receiving extra transmissions from Spirit. The transmissions include imaging data from Spirit's examinations of soil properties and ground geometry.

Rover team members are using that data and other information to construct a simulation of Spirit's situation in a rover testing facility at JPL. The team is testing different materials to use as soil that will mimic the physical properties of the Martian soil where Spirit is embedded. Later, the team will test maneuvers to get the rover free. Weeks of testing are anticipated before any attempt to move Spirit.

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PostPosted: 27 May 2009, 10:27 
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Opportunity Rover Passes 10-Mile Mark on Mars

By Andrea Thompson

SPACE.com - After more than five years on Mars, NASA's tireless Opportunity rover trundled past the 10-mile mark on its odometer while on its way to its next target, Endeavor Crater, the agency said today.

Opportunity reached this marker after a 50-meter (164-feet) drive on sol 1,897 (sols are Martian days, which are about 40 minutes longer than Earth days). The rover's total odometry now sits at 16,133.96 meters or 10.025 miles.

"For a vehicle that was designed to travel 1 km over its lifetime, going 16+ km is a pretty substantial accomplishment!" said Steve Squyres of Cornell University in an email to SPACE.com. Squyres is the lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Rover Project.

...

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PostPosted: 27 May 2009, 11:47 
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Only 2990 miles until its next scheduled oil change!


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PostPosted: 13 Jul 2009, 21:13 
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Robot Spins Wheels to Save Stuck Rover on Mars

SPACE.com - NASA's Earthbound test rover is doggedly spinning its wheels forward and back in the effort to find a way to free its sister robot Spirit from a sandy quagmire on Mars.

Spirit has been stuck in Martian dirt up to its hubcaps since May 6, when it became mired in a dirt patch (now called "Troy") while driving backward.

Because they don't want to damage Spirit while trying out ways to get the rover out of its sand trap, mission engineers are using a replica model here on Earth.

At the end of June, the test rover was set up in a plywood rig in a dirt pit at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The rig is filled with a dirt concoction mixed to mimic the properties of the sand in which Spirit is stuck. It is also tilted at a 10-degree angle - the same angle of the slope that Spirit is stuck on.

Engineers also placed a rock underneath the test rover's belly because images taken last month by the microscopic imager at the end of Spirit's robotic arm. After analyzing the image, mission managers determined that a dark blob in the middle was a rock positioned underneath the rover.

...

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PostPosted: 17 Sep 2009, 21:20 
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NASA's Mars Rover Might Be Stuck For Good

SPACE.com - Efforts to free the stuck Spirit rover on Mars have been dragging on since May and today a NASA official said the robot may never get free.

"We are proceeding very cautiously and exploring all reasonable options," said John Callas, NASA project manager for Spirit and its twin, Opportunity. "There is a very real possibility that Spirit may not be able to get out, and we want to give Spirit the very best chance."

Callas and colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been testing ideas on a twin of Spirit at the California facility, in a pit designed to simulate the surface of Mars. It's tricky though, because of the difference in gravity of the two planets. The rover team is also refining a detailed computer model of rover mobility, calibrated with results from testing and measurements from Mars.

...

:(

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PostPosted: 14 Oct 2009, 09:48 
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Mars Rover FAQ: The Martian Lives of Spirit and Opportunity

SPACE.com - At times, it seems like NASA's Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity will last forever on the red planet.

Since 2004, the twin rovers have explored different parts of Mars with amazing longevity that has astounded scientists almost as much as the data the robots have beamed back to Earth. Spirit and Opportunity have shed light on the history of water on Mars in the distant past, explored Martian hills and meteorites, and even rolled inside craters to probe ever-deeper into the planet's geologic history.

Today, Opportunity has added yet another Martian meteorite – the third of its mission – to its grab bag of red planet discoveries. Opportunity began heading toward the lumpy rock, which has been named "Shelter Island," on Oct. 1 and is reaching out to study the meteorite using its robotic arm. It is eventually headed to a distant, giant crater called Endeavor.

Spirit is stuck up to its wheel hubs in a Martian sand dune that has thwarted all escape attempts to date. Engineers are still trying, though, and the rover's power and science instrument systems are in good shape.

Mars rover engineer Ashley Stroupe, who works on the mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), discussed Spirit and Opportunity's exploits with SPACE.com readers during a recent Live Forum. Here are some of Stroupe's answers to reader questions on the rover mission's challenges and what it's like to drive two cars on Mars:

...

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PostPosted: 02 Nov 2009, 15:11 
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Mars Rover Spirit Has Amnesia Again

By SPACE.com - NASA's Mars rover Spirit is suffering a new bout of amnesia, one that comes after months of being stuck in deep Martian sand.

The 6-year-old rover's latest memory lapse occurred Oct. 24 and came more than six months after a series of four other amnesia events earlier this year. During the events, the plucky rover failed to record science observations in the part of its flash computer memory that stores information overnight when other systems are powered down.

"We still don't have information about what causes these amnesia events," said rover project manager John Callas at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., in an update.

In the latest event, Spirit did not use its flash memory between Oct. 24 and Oct. 27. The rover does have an alternate memory system in which to store data, but must beam that information home to Earth before entering an overnight sleep period, mission managers said.

Callas said engineers are weighing Spirit's amnesia problem to determine how it may affect day-to-day operations for the long term. Aside from the memory glitch, the rover is in good health and communicating with Earth.

...

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PostPosted: 24 Nov 2009, 14:01 
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NASA to Begin Escape Attempt for Stuck Mars Rover

By Andrea Thompson

The effort to free NASA's Spirit rover, currently mired in sand on Mars, will begin in earnest today, when engineers team send the first escape commands to the stuck robot to try to move out of its trap late tonight.

Spirit has been stuck in the Martian dirt since April, when drove into a spot of soft terrain called "Troy" back in April.

Mission managers have spent the past six months devising strategies to move the rover out of the sand pit. They tested them with model rovers back on Earth that are essentially replicas of Spirit and its twin, Opportunity.

Rover drivers decided that the best strategy would be to have Spirit backtrack, moving forward to retrace the tracks that brought it into its current predicament. (The rover's broken right front wheel has meant that Spirit's primary mode of driving is backwards.)

NASA announced the strategy last week, and the rover team plans to write the commands for Spirit to drive out of Troy today and send them up to the rover in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.

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PostPosted: 04 Dec 2009, 11:57 
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Wheel Stalls Hinder Stuck Mars Rover Again

SPACE.com - One of the wheels on the stuck Mars rover Spirit has stalled again, once more causing a snag in NASA's attempts to free the rover.

Spirit's right-rear wheel stalled again on Nov. 28 during the first step of a two-step extrication maneuver. The wheel first stalled a week prior during another drive attempt, though engineers couldn't replicate the stall during diagnostic tests last week. Those tests showed a fully functioning wheel.

This most recent stall had some different characteristics than the new stall, a NASA report said. It occurred more quickly and had a different signature to it.

Engineers think this new stall could be caused not by the Martian terrain, but might be internal to the plucky rover's right-rear wheel actuator.

Rover project engineers are developing a series of diagnostics to explore the actuator health and to isolate potential terrain interactions. These diagnostics won't be run before Wednesday and any future driving attempts will depend on the results of those tests.

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