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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Optimism for Opportunity

Opportunity looking back
Opportunity looking back
Credit: NASA/JPL
On the 25th of April Opportunity got stuck in a sand dune. NASA decided to simulate the rover's dilemma here on Earth to see what they could come up with. They told the terrestrial rover to spin its wheels many times, in doing so, it cleared the dirt away and was made to pull itself free. The ground team decided to tell Opportunity to do the same. Being cautious, they told it to turn its wheels 2.5 times. As it did, Opportunity moved 2.8cm (much more than expected). Difference in atmospheric pressure and composition along with imperfection in the composition in the soil can be blamed for inexactness in the simulation, but it was close enough to tell us what to do, and that's what matters. The team is now closer than it was to getting the rover back onto solid ground. "We really canít tell the difference between a safe place to drive and a not-so-safe place to drive," Jim Erickson, a rover project manager for NASAís Jet Propulsion Laboratory said. He also added that the ground team is looking to remedy that.

I apologize for the apparent lack of updates. As many of our readers know finals are not a nice time, and the members of the RC team are all working almost full time. Please do not disappear and please continue to check back. Now that we are settling into our new routine for the summer, we should be able to make more frequent updates.

(More info: New Scientist)

- posted by Jim @ 14:11 EST