Team Runs Operational Test to Prepare for Extracting Spirit

Oct 19, 2009
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit recorded this forward view of its arm and surroundings during the rover's 2,052nd Martian day, or sol (Oct. 11, 2009).

(PhysOrg.com) -- Engineers using test rovers on Earth to prepare for extracting the sand-trapped Spirit rover on Mars have added a new challenge to their preparations.

Until last week, the engineers commanding and assessing drives by the test rovers were usually in the same room as the sandbox setup simulating Spirit's predicament, where they can watch how each test goes. That changed for the latest preparation, called an operational readiness test.

The team members commanding drives by a test rover last week stayed away from the building with the sandbox. They assessed the results of each commanded drive only from the images and other data communicated from the , the same way the team does for daily operations of the rovers that are on Mars.

"We conducted this round of testing under more flight-like conditions to test the team's ability to make very complex extraction driving decisions using only the data sent back from the rover," said Project Manager John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The test began on Oct. 12 and ran five days on an accelerated schedule of two Martian days' worth of commanding every day. The rover team also operated both Spirit and its twin, Opportunity, while conducting this readiness test at JPL.

Spirit became embedded in at a site called "Troy" five months ago, more than five years into a mission on Mars that was originally scheduled to last for three months. The rover team suspended further driving attempts with Spirit while evaluating possibilities from tests performed at JPL simulating the Troy situation.

Current plans call for an independent panel to review Spirit driving plans in late October, following analysis of results from the readiness test. Unless that review recommends any further preparations, Spirit will probably begin extraction moves within two weeks after the review.

Spirit has spent much of its time at Troy actively examining its surroundings, including analysis of layered soil at the site. In September, a new issue began affecting operations. Data from Spirit indicated that a brake on the motor that rotates the rover's dish-shaped high-gain antenna was not working correctly. The team has been getting more diagnostic data and developing a work-around strategy similar to work-arounds already used for rover-motor brakes that showed similar symptoms earlier.

Provided by JPL/NASA (news : web)

Explore further: Video: MAVEN set to slide into orbit around Mars

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Second Test Rover Added to Driving Experiments

Aug 24, 2009

A second, lighter-weight test rover has entered the testing setup at JPL where rover team members are assessing strategy for getting Spirit out of soft soil where it is embedded on Mars.

Planned Rover Test to Run a Week or More

Aug 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Mars rover team members are planning a long-duration experiment with the test rover at JPL beginning next week. This test will check whether favorable motion seen in earlier tests can be sustained ...

Test Mars Rover Checks Pivoting Technique

Jul 17, 2009

The Mars rover team is using a test rover at JPL to assess various extraction techniques that might get Spirit out of the loose soil of "Troy" on Mars.

Free Spirit: Longer Rover Tests Beginning

Jul 27, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Mars rover team members have begun a new phase of testing at JPL -- using longer-duration experiments -- in their preparations for driving Spirit again on Mars.

Recommended for you

Video: MAVEN set to slide into orbit around Mars

2 hours ago

A NASA mission to Mars led by the University of Colorado Boulder is set to slide into orbit around the red planet this week after a 10-month, 442-million mile chase through the inner solar system. 

Dawn operating normally after safe mode triggered

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The Dawn spacecraft has resumed normal ion thrusting after the thrusting unexpectedly stopped and the spacecraft entered safe mode on September 11. That anomaly occurred shortly before a planned ...

Repaired Opportunity rover readies for 'Marathon Valley'

2 hours ago

With a newly cleared memory, it's time for Opportunity to resume the next stage of its long, long Martian drive. The next major goal for the long-lived rover is to go to Marathon Valley, a spot that (in images ...

Image: Rainbow aurora captured from space station

5 hours ago

Auroras occur when particle radiation from the Sun hits Earth's upper atmosphere, making it glow in a greenish blue light. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst has one of our planet's best views of this phenomenon, ...

Experts: Mystery fireball was Russian satellite

9 hours ago

People from New Mexico to Montana saw the bright object break apart as it moved slowly northward across the night sky. Witnesses described it as three "rocks" with glowing red and orange streaks.

User comments : 0