Three days after switching to new software with mobility-enhancing features, NASA's Opportunity shattered the record for a single day's driving on Mars. The rover covered 140.9 maters (462 feet) during its 82nd sol on Mars, ending at 2:15 p.m. PDT, Saturday, May 17. That is about 40 meters farther than either the best previous one-day drive, by Opportunity two weeks ago, or the total distance covered by NASA's smaller Sojourner rover during its entire three-month mission in 1997.
The first 55 meters (180 feet) was done as a "blind" guided drive based on images acquired previously. Speed during that session averaged 120 meters (394 feet) per hour. For the rest, Opportunity used autonomous navigation, watching for obstacles, choosing its own path, and averaging 40 meters (131 feet) per hour. After the drive, the rover took forward-looking images for planning the next drive.
On the previous martian day, sol 81, Opportunity awoke with its alpha particle X-ray spectrometer on a soil target called "Beagle Burrow" inside a trench the rover had dug on sol 73. The rover removed the instrument arm, stowed it, then backed up to image the trench before driving toward a crater nicknamed "Fram Crater."
Opportunity then completed a 7.5-meter (24.6-foot) drive to a trough to image a rock outcrop within it with the panoramic camera. After a bit of guided driving, the rover set out using its autonomous navigation. The sol 81 drive totaled more than 40 meters (131 feet).
Nearly reaching the second of four waypoints on the way to Fram Crater, the rover imaged its new surroundings to identify any future driving hazards. An afternoon nap preceded sol 81's final science session, atmospheric observations with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer and the panoramic camera.
Rover controllers devoted sol 82 to driving after some morning atmospheric observations and a quick look back with the panoramic camera. The record-setting run took three hours -- a good time for a marathon. It brought Opportunity to within about 90 meters (295 feet) of Fram Crater.
It also took Opportunity over the 600-meter threshold, a criterion that had been set for at least one of the Mars Exploration Rovers to achieve in order for the mission to be called a success. Opportunity has now traveled 627.7 meters (0.39 mile). Spirit passed the 600-meter threshold two weeks ago.
Rover wake-up music for sol 82 was "I Would Walk 500 Miles," by Less Than Jake (originally by the Proclaimers).
For sol 83, ending at 2:54 p.m. PDT, Sunday, April 18, another drive day is planned for Opportunity, with a goal of getting the rover close to Fram Crater. Scientists then plan to use Opportunity for some investigations of that location.
With 100 sols under her belt and 706.5 meters (.44 miles) on her odometer, Spirit keeps on roving toward the Columbia Hills.
Spirit began sol 100, which ended at 12:35 a.m. PDT, on April 15, 2004, by closing the doors on the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, stowing the robotic arm and backing up from the rock called "Route 66" in preparation for an afternoon drive.
Before taking off, Spirit used the miniature thermal emission spectrometer to examine a patch of Route 66's surface that had been scrubbed in a daisy-shaped mosaic of brushings by the rock abrasion tool.
In the early martian afternoon, the rover began a 64-meter (210 feet) drive, Spirit's longest one-sol drive so far. The final 24 meters (78.7 feet) of the drive were navigated with the enhanced autonomous navigation capabilities of Spirit's newly uploaded software. The new software has nearly doubled the meters-per-hour rate to 32 (105 feet-per-hour).
After the traverse, Spirit completed post-drive imaging and used the miniature thermal emission spectrometer on sky and ground targets.
Sol 101, which will end at 1:14 a.m. PDT on April 16, 2004, will be a remote science and driving sol for Spirit as she continues to make her way toward the Columbia Hills.
Mars Rovers at JPL
Mars Rovers at Cornell
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Mars Water Past Still Mysterious
Washington (UPI) Apr 16, 2004
It is a typical case of one of a pair of siblings breezing along and getting all the glory, while the other slogs away and receives little recognition. This particular analogy refers not to humans, however, but to the twin robotic landers currently operating on Mars, and to their achievements so far in searching for evidence the red planet once harbored liquid, flowing water.
Mars Rover Finds Rock Resembling Meteorites That Fell to Earth
Pasadena CA - Apr 16, 2004
NASA's Opportunity rover has examined an odd volcanic rock on the plains of Mars' Meridiani Planum region with a composition unlike anything seen on Mars before, but scientists have found similarities to meteorites that fell to Earth.
Opportunity Boots Up Okay After Flight Software Upgrade
Pasadena - Apr 15, 2004
Waking up to the Ramones' "Teenage Lobotomy," Opportunity began operating with new flight software on its 79th sol on Mars, which ended at 12:16 p.m. PDT on April 14. Yestersol, the rover took daytime readings with its Moessbauer spectrometer on "Jeff's Choice" -- a soil target in the tailings of the trench that the vehicle dug on Sol 73.
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