Mission News

Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
11.12.09
 

Media Telecon

Date: Thursday Nov. 12, 2009 Time: 10 am Pacific Time (1 p.m. EST)

› John L. Callas, project manager, Mars Exploration Rovers, JPL

› Ashley Stroupe, rover driver, Mars Exploration Rovers, JPL

› Ray Arvidson, deputy principal investigator, Mars Exploration Rovers, Washington University in St. Louis

› Doug McCuistion director, Mars Exploration Program, NASA

› Read transcript

A recording of the rover news briefing is available until November 20 by calling:
US Tollfree:800-873-2062
International Toll:402-220-5377



DM1: Opportunity's Travels, Landing to Sol 2055

Image DM1:
Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
› Larger image

The red line tracks the 18.8 kilometers (11.7 miles) that NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity traveled from where it landed in January 2004 to its position 2,955 Martian days, or sols, later, on Nov. 4, 2009.

The rover landed inside Eagle Crater and spent about half its first year examining layers inside Endurance Crater before embarking on a long trek to the larger Victoria Crater, which is explored for two years. Now, Opportunity's next major destination is a crater called Endeavour, which is about 22 kilometers (14 miles) in diameter. The rover has been examining meteorites and other features encountered along its path. The northwestern portion of Endeavour is included in this map.

The map's scale bar is 5 kilometers (3.1 miles).

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Ohio State University/University of Arizona



DM2: Spirit's Travels, Landing to Sol 2000

Image DM2:
Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
› Larger image

The gold line tracks 7.7 kilometers (4.8 miles) that NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit traveled from where it landed in January 2004 to its position 2,000 Martian days, or sols, later, on Aug. 18, 2009.

The rover landed on a basaltic plain, with a range of small hills on the distant eastern horizon. Within a year it was climbing into those Columbia Hills, where it reached the summit of Husband Hill in 2005. The following year, after descending to the neighborhood of a low plateau called "Home Plate" in the inner basin of the Columbia Hills, Spirit lost the use of its right-front wheel. Since then, the rover usually drives backwards, dragging that wheel.

Spirit was driving backwards toward the south, near the western edge of Home Plate, in April 2009, when the wheels on the rover's left side broke through a dark crust on the surface and became embedded in light-toned, loose sand underneath. At this site, called "Troy," Spirit spent more than six months studying the local surroundings while the rover team on Earth developed and tested plans for resuming drives to attempt escaping Troy.

The map uses as its base image an observation by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The scale bar is 100 meters (328 feet).

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/University of Arizona/New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science



JC1: Spirit's Travels in 'Home Plate' Neighborhood

Image JC1:
Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
› Larger image

The gold line tracks the travels of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit since the rover first approached a low plateau called "Home Plate" in early 2006. The rover became embedded at a site called "Troy," on the western side of Home Plate, in April 2009.

North is toward the top of the image. The scale bars are 10 meters (33 feet). The base map is from an image taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/University of Arizona/New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science


JC2: View in Travel Direction, Sol 1870

Image JC2
Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
› Larger image

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit used its navigation camera to capture this view of the terrain toward the southeast from the location Spirit reached on the 1,870th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission on Mars (April 7, 2009).

The ground just left of the center of the image is where Spirit became embedded later in April. Wheels on the western side of the rover broke through the dark, crusty surface into bright, loose, sandy material that was not visible as the rover approached the site.

The mound on the horizon in the upper left is informally called "von Braun" and is one of the features that the rover team designated as a possible investigation site in future months. From the location where Spirit was when the image was taken, Von Braun is about 160 meters (525 feet) away.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


JC3: View in Travel Direction with 'Rock Garden' Labeled

Image JC3
Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
› Larger image

The cluster of rocks labeled a "Rock Garden" in this image is where NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit became embedded in April 2009.

Spirit used its navigation camera to capture this view of the terrain toward the southeast from the location Spirit reached on the 1,870th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission on Mars (April 7, 2009).

The ground just left of the center of the image is where Spirit became embedded later in April. Wheels on the western side of the rover broke through the dark, crusty surface into bright, loose, sandy material that was not visible as the rover approached the site.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


JC4: Spirit's Wheels Digging into Soft Ground, Sol 1899

Image JC4
Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
› Larger image

Wheel slippage during attempts to extricate NASA's Mars Rover Spirit from a patch of soft ground during the preceding two weeks had partially buried the wheels by the 1,899th Martian day, or sol, of the Spirit's mission on Mars (May 6, 2009).

Spirit took this image with its front hazard-avoidance camera on Sol 1899. With Spirit in the position shown here, the rover team temporarily suspended driving attempts while studying the ground around Spirit and planning simulation tests of driving options with a test rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Driving attempts between the time Spirit took a similar image (PIA12002) 10 sols earlier and when this image was taken moved the rover a total of about 36 centimeters (14 inches).

While driving backwards, the rover drags its right front wheel, which no longer rotates. For scale, the distance between the wheel tracks is about 1 meter (40 inches). This view is looking northward, with Husband Hill on the horizon.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


JC5: Rear View Southward from 'Troy'

Image JC5
Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
› Larger image

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit used its rear hazard avoidance camera to take this view toward the south during the 1,899th Martian day, or sol, of Spirit's mission on Mars (May 6, 2009).

The foreground shows that Spirit's left-rear wheel (on the right from this viewpoint) churned up bright-toned material when the rover was becoming embedded at this position, but that the right-rear wheel did not.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


JC6: Test Rover in Sandbox at JPL

Image JC6
Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
› Larger image

Rover-team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., check slight movements by a test rover during tests simulating the challenge of getting NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit out of a sand trap on Mars. From left: Alfonso Herrera, Matt Van Kirk, Mike Seibert, Brenda Franklin.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



AS1: Spirit Photographs Her Underbelly, Sol 1925

Image AS1
Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
› Larger image

This mosaic of images from the Spirit rover, taken on Sol 1925 (June 2, 2009), helped engineers assess the rover's state and plan Spirit's extraction from the soft soil at the site called "Troy." The images were taken by Spirit's microscopic imager instrument, mounted on the end of the robotic arm.

This is the first time the microscopic imager has been used to assist in planning a rover's escape from an embedding event. The imager isn't intended to take these types of images; it is designed to focus on targets only 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) in front of its optics. As a result, the images in this mosaic are well out of focus. Yet despite the focus and the backlighting of the scene, the mosaic is still very useful for helping to assess the situation. The mosaic is rotated to show the true orientation of the rover relative to the local terrain. The view shows the underside of the rover, the depth to which the wheels are embedded, and the terrain itself in sufficient detail.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/USGS


AS2: Spirit's Wheels Digging into Soft Ground, Sol 1899

Image AS2
Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
› Larger image

Wheel slippage during attempts to extricate NASA's Mars Rover Spirit from a patch of soft ground during the preceding two weeks had partially buried the wheels by the 1,899th Martian day, or sol, of the Spirit's mission on Mars (May 6, 2009).

Spirit took this image with its front hazard-avoidance camera on Sol 1899. With Spirit in the position shown here, the rover team temporarily suspended driving attempts while studying the ground around Spirit and planning simulation tests of driving options with a test rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Driving attempts between the time Spirit took a similar image (PIA12002) 10 sols earlier and when this image was taken moved the rover a total of about 36 centimeters (14 inches).

While driving backwards, the rover drags its right front wheel, which no longer rotates. For scale, the distance between the wheel tracks is about 1 meter (40 inches). This view is looking northward, with Husband Hill on the horizon.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



RA1: Site of Intense Investigation by Spirit

Image RA1
Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
› Larger image

This image taken by the front hazard avoidance camera on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit looks toward the northwest and shows some of the targets examined by Spirit after the rover became embedded at this site.

"Ulysses" is the area where Spirit's left wheels broke through a crust and stirred up poorly sorted, weakly cohesive sands. "Sandals" are two small rocks to the northwest of Ulysses. "Cyclops Eye" and "Polyphemus Eye" are two locations in which Spirit's rock abrasion tool was used to bore into the subsurface for detailed textural, compositional, and mineralogical measurements. Ulysses has the highest sulfate content measured by either Spirit or Opportunity. Cyclops Eye also has sulfate minerals beneath the surface whereas Polyphemus Eye does not. Thus Spirit must be sitting over a geologic boundary where materials are different to the west as opposed to the east.

Spirit took this image during the 1,998th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission on Mars (Aug. 16, 2009).

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



RA2: Adjusted Local Topography Map of Spirit's Surroundings

Image RA2
Plan for Getting Mars Rover Moving
› Larger image (tiff)

A depression called "Scamander Crater," about 8 meters (26 feet) wide and 25 centimeters (10 inches) deep, dominates the terrain near NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit in this map that emphasizes local topography by removing the regional tilt to the northwest.

The total relief indicated by the color differences is about half a meter (20 inches) from the higher ground (color coded red) to the lower ground (color coded black). The map covers an area 12 meters (39 feet) wide from west to east. North is to the top.

The topographic information was generated from stereo image data using exposures taken by Spirit's navigation camera during the 1,870th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission on Mars (April 7, 2009). At that time, Spirit had not yet reached the rover location indicated on the map. The indicated position is at a site called "Troy," where Spirit became embedded by the end of April and remained for more than six months. From its embedded position, the rover used its robotic arm to examine the patch of bright soil it had exposed, called "Ulysses."

The map indicates that Spirit is situated with its left wheels within the crater and right wheels outside the crater. Rover-team scientists hypothesize that the left wheels broke through a thin, sulfate-rich crust and encountered underlying loose sulfate sands that fill the crater.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ohio State University



Media contacts:
Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov