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

November 17, 2008,
This view shows the southward vista from the location where Spirit has spent its third Martian winter inside Mars' Gusev Crater.

(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's solar panels produced 161 watt hours of energy on the Martian day that ended Thursday, under a sky that had cleared appreciably from four days earlier, when a dust storm slashed energy output to 89 watt hours. However, the dust buildup on the panels themselves has worsened. Only 30 percent of the light hitting them gets through the dust and is usable by the photovoltaic cells, down from 33 percent before the storm.

"Spirit is not out of the woods yet," said John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project manager for Spirit and its twin, Opportunity. "The storm and all its dust have not gone away completely. And this is the time of the Martian year when storms like this can occur. So the plan ahead is to stay cautious with the rover and work on recharging the batteries while waiting out the rest of the storm's activity."

A four-day plan being transmitted to Spirit today, Nov. 14, tells the rover to keep some heaters turned off and conduct only limited observations and communications. That plan will be followed by similar low-power sequences for the rest of the month.

On Nov. 30, Spirit will begin a two-week period with no new commands sent from Earth, while the sun is between Earth and Mars. Even before the storm that is now subsiding, the rover team did not plan to drive Spirit away from its location at the north end of a low platform called "Home Plate" until after that period of suspended commanding.

Spirit has been operating on Mars for nearly five years in an exploration mission originally planned to last three months. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Provided by NASA

Explore further: Where Martian dust comes from

Related Stories

Where Martian dust comes from

July 24, 2018

The dust that coats much of the surface of Mars originates largely from a single thousand-kilometer-long geological formation near the Red Planet's equator, scientists have found.

Opportunity hunkers down during dust storm (Update)

June 11, 2018

NASA engineers received a transmission from Opportunity on Sunday morning—a positive sign despite the worsening dust storm. Data from the transmission let engineers know the rover still has enough battery charge to communicate ...

Scientists work to free Mars rover Spirit

October 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- In the past several weeks, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory finished experimentation on methods to get the rover Spirit unstuck from its location near a plateau called Home Plate.

Mars rover Spirit misses communication session

April 1, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit skipped a planned communication session on March 30 and, as anticipated from recent power-supply projections, has probably entered a low-power hibernation mode.

Recommended for you

Magnetized inflow accreting to center of Milky Way galaxy

August 17, 2018

Are magnetic fields an important guiding force for gas accreting to a supermassive black hole (SMBH) like the one that our Milky Way galaxy hosts? The role of magnetic fields in gas accretion is little understood, and trying ...

First science with ALMA's highest-frequency capabilities

August 17, 2018

The ALMA telescope in Chile has transformed how we see the universe, showing us otherwise invisible parts of the cosmos. This array of incredibly precise antennas studies a comparatively high-frequency sliver of radio light: ...

Six things about Opportunity's recovery efforts

August 17, 2018

NASA's Opportunity rover has been silent since June 10, when a planet-encircling dust storm cut off solar power for the nearly-15-year-old rover. Now that scientists think the global dust storm is "decaying"—meaning more ...

Another way for stellar-mass black holes to grow larger

August 17, 2018

A trio of researchers with The University of Hong Kong, Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Taiwan and Northwestern University in the U.S., has come up with an alternative theory to explain how some ...

Sprawling galaxy cluster found hiding in plain sight

August 16, 2018

MIT scientists have uncovered a sprawling new galaxy cluster hiding in plain sight. The cluster, which sits a mere 2.4 billion light years from Earth, is made up of hundreds of individual galaxies and surrounds an extremely ...

Hubble paints picture of the evolving universe

August 16, 2018

Astronomers using the ultraviolet vision of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have captured one of the largest panoramic views of the fire and fury of star birth in the distant universe. The field features approximately 15,000 ...

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.