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Rover Engineers Regain Use Of Opportunity Rover Arm

Opportunity's arm at work on Sol 673 at an unusual outcrop.
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Dec 15, 2005
NASA's Mars rover Opportunity managed to extend its robotic arm Tuesday and touch a rock outcrop in the Erebus Crater location with one of its scientific instruments, overcoming a shoulder joint motor problem that had prevented use of the arm since November 25.

On December 8, rover engineers had moved the arm slightly by applying a higher voltage than normal to the windings inside the shoulder joint; they've since deduced that the motor glitch appeared to be the result of a broken wire in one of nine windings, or coils, in the arm.

Jim Erickson, project manager for the Mars Exploration Rover mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has told Space.com that engineers were now looking at different positions in which to stow the arm - it will now most likely be stowed over the rover's deck, rather than its usual spot under the rover - so that it can continue to be used as a science tool, with the arm kept out in front.

related report
Spirit Bears Down On Comanche
Ithaca NY (SPX) Dec 16 -- Meanwhile Steve Squyres writes in his online diary at Cornell University, "The big news, of course, is that Opportunity's IDD is working again! We have confirmed that there is a broken wire in the winding of the motor, and in order to compensate for it we have to double the voltage to that motor. We've done that, and the IDD is moving.

We still have work to do here. Even though we know how to move it now, we still have to experiment quite a bit with all the nitty-gritty details of how to operate an arm in this fashion. Also, we're now thinking that we may not want to stow the arm again underneath the rover where we normally put it, since one more broken wire could disable that joint completely. Instead, we're looking at other ways that we might "stow" the arm out in front of the vehicle so that if the joint dies completely, we'll still be able to use the other joints.

Still, it sure is good to see it working again!

Over at Gusev, we're bearing down on Comanche. This thing is pretty big, and it's going to look spectacular once we get next to it. Still no telling what it's made of, but we should know soon enough.

Once we've done our work at Comanche, then we have a really important decision to make. We need to keep moving quickly if we're going to get to McCool Hill and its sunny north-facing slopes by winter. We have two very enticing targets ahead of us after Comanche, and we've got to pick one of the two... there isn't time for both. One is a ridge off to the southeast that we've named Allegheny Ridge.

The other is a large patch of dark sand off to the southwest that (with some inspiration from Edgar Alan Poe) we've named El Dorado. We'll get to Comanche, take pictures of both, and then pick one of the two... probably sometime next week. The seasons are changing rapidly at Gusev, and time is of the essence.

Related Links
Mars Rovers at JPL
Mars Rovers at Cornell
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Descent From The Summit Of Husband Hill
Pasadena CA (JPL) Dec 15, 2005
In late November 2005 while descending "Husband Hill," NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit took the most detailed panorama so far of the "Inner Basin," the rover's next target destination.

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