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Sunday, February 1, 2004


Spirit OK, Opportunity "rolled off"

Challenger Memorial Station.
Challenger Memorial Station.
Credit: NASA
Spirit has recovered and is resuming its scientific mission. Using its Mössbauer spectrometer, it has analyzed the composition of the Adirondack rock. "What made us extremely happy when we saw the graph for the first time were the small peaks," said Dr. Bodo Bernhardt, a member of the rover science team from the University of Mainz, Germany, which provided the instrument. Olivine, pyroxene and magnetite are represented by these peaks, a composition common to volcanic basalt rock on Earth. NASA is now planning on using the Rock Abrasion Tool to further study the rock.

Engineers are still planning on erasing the FLASH memory to allow the rover to run in "Normal" mode.

In other news, Opportunity has rolled off Challenger Memorial Station and onto the surface of Mars. It has returned info that indicated that crystalline hematite (which, on Earth, is created in wet conditions) is present, the reason the site was selected. "We're two for two! One dozen wheels on the soil." JPL's Chris Lewicki, flight director, announced to the control room. Matt Wallace, mission manager said, "We knew it was going to be a good day. The rover woke up fit and healthy to Bruce Springsteen's 'Born to Run,' and it turned out to be a good choice." Opportunity is on the surface of Mars 5 days faster than its twin Spirit was.

(More info: NASA.gov)


- posted by Jim @ 11:48 EST

(permanent link)


First Anniversary of the Loss of Columbia

One Year ago, Columbia broke up on reentry to Earth. On board was Commander Rick D. Husband, Pilot William C. McCool, Payload Commander Michael P. Anderson, Mission Specialist 1 David M. Brown, Mission Specialist 2 Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist 3 Laurel Blair Salton Clark, and Payload Specialist 1 Ilan Ramon. Working 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts, the crew successfully conducted approximately 80 experiments. All 7 died 16 minutes before landing due to foam destroying a section of the shuttle's heat shield.

(More info: NASA)


- posted by Jim @ 12:33 EST

(permanent link)

Tuesday, February 3, 2004


Europe Plans Manned Moon Mission 2020, Mars 2030

Ariane Rocket.
Ariane Rocket.
Credit: ESA
Technically it's not like the 1960s, when the United States and the Soviet Union vied for the first person on the Moon. None of the contenders are calling it a race. But that's not stopping them from doing it anyway.

Europe has announced that it will put a man on the moon by 2020-2025 and a man on Mars on 2033. The ESA has said that it will launch a mission in 2007 to test a new reentry vehicle needed for its missions, followed by the 2009 ExoMars mission, a 2014 sample return mission, a 2026 test mission, a 2030 cargo mission, and the final 2033 manned mission. This puts it close to the other major contenders, the United States and Russia, and ahead of the doubtful 2050+ Indian mission and the undated eventual Chinese attempt. Europe has seen many successes in recent years with its space program, including the successful deployment of the most advanced spacecraft to ever orbit Mars. Although the dates for the mission are still preliminary, there are high hopes that it will succeed.

(More info: Yahoo! News)


- posted by Brian @ 16:02 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, February 4, 2004


New Article: Mars or Bust

President Bush.
President Bush.
Credit: NASA
Praising, yet criticizing President Bush for announcing his new space initiative on January 14th, Chris Ferenzi has written Mars or Bust. Here's a snippet:

This is a speech that I can honestly say I have waited my whole life to hear and although I know I should be thrilled at the prospect of a NASA that finally has a clear focus, I cannot help but feel cheated. I believe the president has made the wrong decision in choosing to make the Moon and not Mars the centerpiece of his new space vision.

As Chris writes, "Take risks, Mr. Bush. Be bold."


- posted by Alex @ 21:05 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, February 19, 2004


MER Update

This sharp, close-up image taken by the microscopic imager on Opportunity shows a rock target dubbed
This sharp, close-up image taken by the microscopic imager on Opportunity shows a rock target dubbed "Robert E."
Credit: NASA/JPL
Sorry about the update lag; life intervened.

Both rovers can now drive themselves. Using their cameras and sensors they only need to be told were to end up. The rovers crater's are at 1.95 degrees south latitude and 354.47 degrees east longitude for Opportunity and Spirit's is at 14.57 degrees south latitude and 175.47 degrees east longitude.

Both rovers have been looking at many rocks and driving further from their landers than Pathfinders total distance.

The rovers are capable of digging trenches about 50 centimeters long and 10 centimeters deep. This surprising amount allows more "depth" in the rover's studies. The MI's have returned images of round spheres and Spirit is transmitting at 256Kbps.

An international, interplanetary "internet" has been established as well. JPL sent it's commands to Germany, who sent it to Mars Express, who sent it to the MER's, who replied to the Deep Space Network (another international group). "This is excellent news," said JPL's Richard Horttor, project manager for NASA's role in Mars Express. "The communication sessions between Mars Express and Spirit were pristine. Not a single bit of data was missing or added, and there were no duplications." This is the first time the agencies have used each other’s equipment to communicate with each other.

(More info: JPL/NASA)


- posted by Jim @ 15:17 EST

(permanent link)

Thursday, February 26, 2004


MER Update

Today MER-B was woken up by "Let it Be" by the Beatles. Opportunity spent the yestersol getting the Mössbauer spectrometer to the RAT's hole in "McKittrick." The data was sent that night, along with the X-ray spectrometer data (to get missing packets).

The power MER-B is getting from its solar cells is dwindling due to the seasonal transition to summer. To compensate NASA is routing outbound transitions through Odyssey and only uplinking to the rover via direct earth communication. The rover is also "cat napping" to save energy through the day.

MER-A stopped short of completing its task because of built-in safeties. Spirit and Opportunity are both collecting hi-res pictures all the time.

A short, time-lapse video of the Martian sun set is available here, complements of NASA.

(More info: NASA)


- posted by Jim @ 18:45 EST

(permanent link)

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