Leicester, UK (SPX) Aug 24, 2005
428 sols after reaching the foot of the Columbia Hills and 582 sols after landing, Mars Exploration Rover 'Spirit' has finally arrived atop Husband Hill - some 90 metres above the basaltic floor of Gusev Crater.
After a two month sprint to the foot of the hills, Spirit had developed a sticky front right wheel, which lead mission engineers to devise a technique of driving backwards, leaving that wheel locked to save it for the accuracy demanding drives toward targets.
After surviving the worst of the Martian winter - just - Spirit has now driven approximately 4750 metres ( 3 miles ) and taken more than 59000 images, 40000 with its high resolution Pancam which has provided our first glimpse of the terrain beyond the summit of Husband Hill.
As has increasingly been the case of the past few months - the internet based community of image processing experts has come up trumps producing stunning panoramas within hours of the images arriving on the ground.
On Sol 581, Spirit used its wide angle NavCam to take a partial panorama looking ahead toward the peak - at which point the summit still obscured a little of the horizon beyond.
Unmannedspaceflight.com forum member Peter Greutmann (Tman) produced a stunning 5 frame mosaic showing the road to the summit ahead and fortuitously, one of the largest dust devils imaged to date - several kilometres to the north, and several hundred metres across.
To the south, Ramon and McCool hills and Spirits next goal, the complex and intriguing terrain to the south of Husband Hill where a large dark area imaged by Mars Global Surveyor awaits investigation - nicknamed 'Ultreya Abyss'.
But mission scientists have long since stopped making predictions as to what may lie around the next corner. Using every day as if Spirits very last, yet keeping one eye on the grand scheme ahead is a compromise that engineers and scientists alike have been making for hundreds of sols.
Stops for scientific investigation, when they are made, now take much longer than they have in the past - due to the reduced sensitivity of the ferric mineral hunting Mossbauer spectrometer as its small radioactive sample decays.
Now requiring 4 long sols of measurement to produce an accurate spectra instead of the 12 hours it did on landing, this is a situation that becomes worse with time.
Similarly, the hole-punching 'RAT' that ground into the rocks of Gusev crater and the foothills of Columbia has outlived its design criteria of 3 grindings by more than 20, but has finally worn away the last of the abrasive material on its grinding blades.
Still able to brush the dust from the surface of rocks however, it's job is not done. In other regards - Spirit is a healthy vehicle. The long summer days and wind-cleaned solar arrays have combined to give Spirit nearly as much power today as it did the day it landed - but for how long?
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Onward And Upward To The Summit Of Husband Hill
Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 22, 2005
Spirit has made 54 meters (177 feet) of forward progress towards the summit of "Husband Hill" this past week. This is excellent progress considering Spirit is on restricted sols, so it can only drive every other sol.
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