Spirit Finishes Pre-Winter Drives

February 12, 2010
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit recorded this fisheye view with its rear hazard-avoidance camera after completing a drive during the 2,169th Martian day, or sol, of Spirit's mission on Mars (Feb. 8, 2010). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit is now parked for the winter. The rover team is commanding Spirit this week to make additional preparations for the Mars southern hemisphere winter season. The team does not plan further motion of the wheels until spring comes to Spirit's location beside the western edge of a low plateau called Home Plate.

On Sol 2169 (Feb. 8, 2010), the rover's last drive before changed the angles of its suspension system, but it did not produce a hoped-for improvement to the overall tilt of the for catching winter sunshine. Drives since Sol 2145 (Jan. 15, 2010) moved Spirit 34 centimeters (13 inches) south-southeastward. However, a counterclockwise yawing of the rover during the drives prevented it from reducing its southerly tilt.

Spirit will spend the coming winter tilted 9 degrees toward the south, an unfavorable attitude for the solar panels to catch rays from the sun in the northern sky. Spirit's parking positions for its previous three Martian winters tilted northward. Engineers anticipate that, due to the unfavorable tilt for this fourth winter, Spirit will be out of communication with Earth for several months.

Spirit may enter a low-power hibernation mode within a few weeks, shutting down almost all functions except keeping a master clock running and checking its power status periodically until it has enough power to reawaken. It may go in and out of this mode a few times at the beginning and at the end of an extended hibernation period.

This week the rover team is uploading schedules to Spirit for when to communicate with Earth or with the orbiting during the rest of this year and into 2011. Spirit will use these schedules whenever it has adequate power to wake up. Spirit will take a set of "before" images of surroundings from the parked position this week, for comparison with images in the Martian spring to study effects of wind. Images toward the south will also aid preparations for possible future drives, although, with only four of its six wheels still working, the rover is not expected to move farther than short repositioning drives. Other preparations for winter will include putting the robotic arm into a position for studies of atmospheric composition when power is available and changing the stow positions of the high-gain antenna and panoramic camera to minimize shadowing of the solar panels.

Spirit is more than six years into a mission originally planned for three months on . Its twin, Opportunity, is exploring an area halfway around the planet and closer to the equator, where that rover does not need to park for the winter.

Explore further: NASA Posts Panorama to Celebrate Rover's 1,000th Martian Day

Related Stories

Mars Rover Team Sets Low-Power Plan for NASA's Spirit

November 17, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- After assessing data received from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit on Thursday, mission controllers laid out plans for the rover to conserve its modest energy during the next few weeks.

Spirit rover's wheels stuck in soft Martian dirt

May 12, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The five wheels that still rotate on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit have been slipping severely in soft soil during recent attempts to drive, sinking the wheels about halfway into the ground.

Future uncertain for stuck Mars rover

January 3, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Mars rover Spirit will mark six years of unprecedented science exploration and inspiration for the American public on Sunday. However, the upcoming Martian winter could end the roving career of the ...

NASA ends effort to free rover from Martian sand

January 26, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- After six years of unprecedented exploration of the Red Planet, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit no longer will be a fully mobile robot. NASA has designated the once-roving scientific explorer a stationary ...

Recommended for you

First detection of lithium from an exploding star

July 29, 2015

The chemical element lithium has been found for the first time in material ejected by a nova. Observations of Nova Centauri 2013 made using telescopes at ESO's La Silla Observatory, and near Santiago in Chile, help to explain ...

Dense star clusters shown to be binary black hole factories

July 29, 2015

The coalescence of two black holes—a very violent and exotic event—is one of the most sought-after observations of modern astronomy. But, as these mergers emit no light of any kind, finding such elusive events has been ...

New names and insights at Ceres

July 29, 2015

Colorful new maps of Ceres, based on data from NASA's Dawn spacecraft, showcase a diverse topography, with height differences between crater bottoms and mountain peaks as great as 9 miles (15 kilometers).

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.