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As most of you should know, the mars rover, Spirit, was launched with the purpose to give us a better understanding of the mars soil and atmosphere characteristics.

Because of that, the solar panel system used to power up the robot wont be able to be filled on time resulting in the robot cease of functions.

Spirit (rover)

Aided by cleaning events that resulted in more energy from its solar panels, Spirit went on to function effectively over twenty times longer than NASA planners expected.

This was not the first of the mission's 'embedding events' and for the following eight months NASA carefully analyzed the situation, running Earth-based theoretical and practical simulations, and finally programming the rover to make extrication drives in an attempt to free itself.

These efforts continued until January 26, 2010 when NASA officials announced that the rover was likely irrecoverably obstructed by its location in soft soil,[8]

JPL continued to attempt to regain contact until May 24, 2011, when NASA announced that efforts to communicate with the unresponsive rover had ended, calling the mission complete.[12][13][14][15]

Spirit (and its twin, Opportunity) are six-wheeled, solar-powered robots standing 1.5 meters (4.9 ft) high, 2.3 meters (7.5 ft) wide and 1.6 meters (5.2 ft) long and weighing 180 kilograms (400 lb).

0.18 kilometers per hour (0.11 mph), although average speed is about 1 centimeter per second (0.39 in/s).

Solar arrays generate about 140 watts for up to four hours per Martian day (sol) while rechargeable lithium ion batteries store energy for use at night.

The rover's operating temperature ranges from −40 to +40 °C (−40 to 104 °F) and radioisotope heater units provide a base level of heating, assisted by electrical heaters when necessary.

Communications depends on an omnidirectional low-gain antenna communicating at a low data rate and a steerable high-gain antenna, both in direct contact with Earth.

On August 11, 2007, Spirit obtained the second longest operational duration on the surface of Mars for a lander or rover at 1282 Sols, one sol longer than the Viking 2 lander.

Spirit was targeted to a site that appears to have been affected by liquid water in the past, the crater Gusev, a possible former lake in a giant impact crater about 10 km (6.2 mi) from the center of the target ellipse[23]

These give scientists the information they need to select promising geological targets and drive to those locations to perform on-site scientific investigations.

The panoramic image below shows a slightly rolling surface, littered with small rocks, with hills on the horizon up to 3 kilometers (1.9 mi) away.[25]

'Sleepy Hollow,' a shallow depression in the Mars ground at the right side of the above picture, was targeted as an early destination when the rover drove off its lander platform.

However, a complete pancam panorama is even 8 times larger than that, and could be taken in stereo (i.e., two complete pictures, making the resolution twice as large again.) The colors are fairly accurate.

The next day the rover radioed a 7.8 bit/s beep, confirming that it had received a transmission from Earth but indicating that the craft believed it was in a fault mode.

Spirit was commanded to transmit engineering data, and on January 23 sent several short low-bitrate messages before finally transmitting 73 megabits via X band to Mars Odyssey.

On sol 19 (January 24, 2004) the rover repair team announced that the problem was with Spirit's flash memory and the software that wrote to it.

The flash hardware was believed to be working correctly but the file management module in the software was 'not robust enough' for the operations the Spirit was engaged in when the problem occurred, indicating that the problem was caused by a software bug as opposed to faulty hardware.

It then turned in place to face the target rock and drove four short moves straightforward totaling 1.9 meters (6.2 feet).

Spirit made a small depression in the rock, 45.5 millimeters (1.8 inches) in diameter and 2.65 millimeters (0.1 inch) deep.

In contrast to the rocks found by the twin rover Opportunity, this one was formed from magma and then acquired bright material in small crevices, which look like crystallized minerals.

If this interpretation holds true, the minerals were most likely dissolved in water, which was either carried inside the rock or interacted with it at a later stage, after it formed.[30]

A long, snaking sand dune stretches away from its southwestern side, and Spirit went around it, because loose sand dunes present an unknown risk to the ability of the rover wheels to get traction.

From here, Spirit took a northerly path along the base of the hill towards the target Wooly Patch, which was studied from sol 192 to sol 199.

Spirit also investigated some targets along the way, including the soil target, 'Paso Robles', which contained the highest amount of salt found on the red planet.

On March 9, 2005 (probably during the Martian night), the rover's solar panel efficiency jumped from around 60% of what it had originally been to 93%, followed on March 10, by the sighting of dust devils.

NASA scientists speculate a dust devil must have swept the solar panels clean, possibly significantly extending the duration of the mission.

Mission members monitoring Spirit on Mars reported on sol 421 March 12, 2005, that a lucky encounter with a dust devil had cleaned the robot's solar panels.

The find at Comanche is the first unambiguous evidence from the Mars Exploration Mission rovers for a past Martian environment that may have been more favorable to life than the wet but acidic conditions indicated by the rovers' earlier finds.[38]

Spirit arrived at the north west corner of Home Plate, a raised and layered outcrop on sol 744 (February 2006) after an effort to maximize driving.

Reaching the ridge on April 9, 2006 and parking on the ridge with an 11° incline to the north, Spirit spent the next eight months on the ridge, spending that time undertaking observations of changes in the surrounding area.[40]

The rover made its first drive, a short turn to position targets of interest within reach of the robotic arm, in early November 2006, following the shortest days of winter and solar conjunction when communications with Earth were severely limited.

The new systems let the rovers decide whether or not to transmit an image, and whether or not to extend their arms to examine rocks, which would save much time for scientists as they would not have to sift through hundreds of images to find the one they want, or examine the surroundings to decide to extend the arms and examine the rocks.[41]

As it was traveling in March 2007, pulling the dead wheel behind, the wheel scraped off the upper layer of the Martian soil, uncovering a patch of ground that scientists say shows evidence of a past environment that would have been perfect for microbial life.

The panorama image was published on NASA's website on January 3, 2008 to little attention, until January 23, when an independent website published a magnified detail of the image that showed a rock feature a few centimeters high resembling a humanoid figure seen from the side with its right arm partially raised.[44][45]

The key problem caused by the dust storms was a dramatic reduction in solar energy caused by there being so much dust in the atmosphere that it was blocking 99 percent of direct sunlight to Opportunity, and slightly more to Spirit.

To increase the amount of light hitting the solar panels, the rover was parked in the northern part of Home Plate on as steep a slope as possible.

It was expected that the level of dust cover on the solar panels would increase by 70 percent and that a slope of 30 degrees would be necessary to survive the winter.

On November 10, 2008, a large dust storm further reduced the output of the solar panels to 89 watt-hours (320 kJ) per day—a critically low level.[49]

On sol 1879 April 18, 2009 and sol 1889 April 28, 2009 energy output of the solar arrays were increased by cleaning events.[54][55]

The energy output of Spirit's solar arrays climbed from 223 watt-hours (800 kJ) per day on March 31, 2009 to 372 watt-hours (1,340 kJ) per day on April 29, 2009.[55]

On sol 1892 (May 1, 2009), the rover became stuck in soft soil, the machine resting upon a cache of iron(III) sulfate (jarosite) hidden under a veneer of normal-looking soil.

JPL team members simulated the situation by means of a rover mock-up and computer models in an attempt to get the rover back on track.

To reproduce the same soil mechanical conditions on Earth as those prevailing on Mars under low gravity and under very weak atmospheric pressure, tests with a lighter version of a mock-up of Spirit were conducted at JPL in a special sandbox to attempt to simulate the cohesion behavior of poorly consolidated soils under low gravity.[58][59]

On sol 2116 December 17, 2009, the right-front wheel suddenly began to operate normally for the first three out of four rotations attempts.

If the team could not gain movement and adjust the tilt of the solar panels, or gain a beneficial wind to clean the panels, the rover would only be able to sustain operations until May 2010.[61]

On sol 2155 January 26, 2010, after several months attempting to free the rover, NASA decided to redefine the mobile robot mission by calling it a stationary research platform.

On March 30, 2010, Spirit skipped a planned communication session and as anticipated from recent power-supply projections, had probably entered a low-power hibernation mode.[63]

In previous winters the rover was able to park on a Sun-facing slope and keep its internal temperature above −40 °C, but since the rover was stuck on flat ground it is estimated that its internal temperature dropped to −55 °C.

If Spirit had survived these conditions and there had been a cleaning event, there was a possibility that with the southern summer solstice in March 2011, solar energy would increase to a level that would wake up the rover.[65]

It is likely that Spirit experienced a low-power fault and had turned off all sub-systems, including communication, and gone into a deep sleep, trying to recharge its batteries.

If that had happened, the rover would have lost track of time and tried to remain asleep until enough sunlight struck the solar arrays to wake it.

If the rover had experienced a mission clock fault and then had been awoken during the day, it would have listened during brief, 20-minute intervals during each hour awake.

If the rover heard one of these commands, it would have responded with an X-band beep signal, updating the mission controllers on its status and allowing them to investigate the state of the rover further.

According to NASA, the rover likely experienced excessively cold 'internal temperatures' due to 'inadequate energy to run its survival heaters' that, in turn, was a result of 'a stressful Martian winter without much sunlight.'

They contain the minerals olivine, pyroxene, plagioclase, and magnetite, and they look like volcanic basalt as they are fine-grained with irregular holes (geologists would say they have vesicles and vugs).[69][70]

The spectra of the dust was similar to spectra of bright, low thermal inertia regions like Tharsis and Arabia that have been detected by orbiting satellites.

rocks have been very slightly altered, probably by thin films of water because they are softer and contain veins of light colored material that may be bromine compounds, as well as coatings or rinds.

The silica could have come from the interaction of soil with acid vapors produced by volcanic activity in the presence of water or from water in a hot spring environment.[86]

After Spirit stopped working scientists studied old data from the Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer, or Mini-TES and confirmed the presence of large amounts of carbonate-rich rocks, which means that regions of the planet may have once harbored water.

Some of Spirit's star gazing was designed to look for a predicted meteor shower caused by Halley's Comet, and although at least four imaged streaks were suspect meteors, they could not be unambiguously differentiated from those caused by cosmic rays.[89]

Ephemeris data generated by JPL Horizons indicates that Opportunity would have been able to observe the transit from the start until local sunset at about 19:23 UTC Earth time, while Spirit would have been able to observe it from local sunrise at about 19:38 UTC until the end of the transit.[clarification needed][90]

Although this resulted in changes to driving techniques, the dragging effect became a useful tool, partially clearing away soil on the surface as the rover traveled, thus allowing areas to be imaged that would normally be inaccessible.

However, in mid-December 2009, to the surprise of the engineers, the right front wheel showed slight movement in a wheel-test on sol 2113 and clearly rotated with normal resistance on three of four wheel-tests on sol 2117, but stalled on the fourth.

however, towards the end of Spirit's life, the MIMOS II Mössbauer spectrometer took much longer to produce results than it did earlier in the mission because of the decay of its cobalt-57 gamma ray source that has a half life of 271 days.

On 28 February 2, 2004 the astronauts on Space Shuttle Columbia's final mission were further memorialized when NASA named a set of hills to the east of the landing site the Columbia Hills Complex, denoting seven peaks in that area as 'Anderson', 'Brown', 'Chawla', 'Clark', 'Husband', 'McCool', and 'Ramon';

Mars Exploration Rover

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two Mars rovers, Spirit[1]

Both rovers far outlived their planned missions of 90 Martian solar days: MER-A Spirit was active until 2010, while MER-B Opportunity is still active in 2018, and holds the record for the longest distance driven by any off-Earth wheeled vehicle.

The mission's scientific objective was to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars.

In July 2007, during the fourth mission extension, Martian dust storms blocked sunlight to the rovers and threatened the ability of the craft to gather energy through their solar panels, causing engineers to fear that one or both of them might be permanently disabled.

After nearly nine months of attempts to get the rover back on track, including using test rovers on Earth, NASA announced on January 26, 2010 that Spirit was being retasked as a stationary science platform.

This mode would enable Spirit to assist scientists in ways that a mobile platform could not, such as detecting 'wobbles' in the planet's rotation that would indicate a liquid core.[8]

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) lost contact with Spirit after last hearing from the rover on March 22, 2010 and continued attempts to regain communications lasted until May 25, 2011, bringing the elapsed mission time to 6 years 2 months 19 days, or over 25 times the original planned mission duration.[9]

On January 24, 2014, NASA reported that current studies by the remaining rover Opportunity as well as by the newer Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity will now be searching for evidence of ancient life, including a biosphere based on autotrophic, chemotrophic and/or chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms, as well as ancient water, including fluvio-lacustrine environments (plains related to ancient rivers or lakes) that may have been habitable.[10][11][12][13]

Though both probes launched on Boeing Delta II 7925-9.5 rockets from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 17 (CCAFS SLC-17), MER-B was on the heavy version of that launch vehicle, needing the extra energy for Trans-Mars injection.

On March 23, 2004, a news conference was held announcing 'major discoveries' of evidence of past liquid water on the Martian surface.

A delegation of scientists showed pictures and data revealing a stratified pattern and cross bedding in the rocks of the outcrop inside a crater in Meridiani Planum, landing site of MER-B, Opportunity.

It is thought that its rocks are explosive volcanic deposits, though other possibilities exist, including impact deposits or sediment borne by wind or water.

Its drivers attempted to drag the dead wheel behind Spirit, but this only worked until reaching an impassable sandy area on the lower slopes.

Drivers directed Spirit to a smaller sloped feature, dubbed 'Low Ridge Haven', where it spent the long Martian winter, waiting for spring and increased solar power levels suitable for driving.

Two months later, Spirit and Opportunity resumed driving after hunkering down during raging dust storms that limited solar power to a level that nearly caused the permanent failure of both rovers.[22]

On August 26, 2008, Opportunity began its three-day climb out of Victoria crater amidst concerns that power spikes, similar to those seen on Spirit before the failure of its right-front wheel, might prevent it from ever being able to leave the crater if a wheel failed.

On January 26, NASA announced that Spirit will be used as a stationary research platform after several months of unsuccessful attempts to free the rover from soft sand.[33]

In April 2013, a photo sent back by one of the rovers became widely circulated on social networking and news sites such as Reddit that appeared to depict a human penis carved into the Martian dirt.[38][39]

Opportunity covered over 40 km (25 mi), surpassing the total distance of 39 km (24 mi) driven by the Lunokhod 2 lunar rover, the previous record-holder.[40][41]

On March 23, 2015, NASA announced that Opportunity had driven the full 42.2 km (26.2 mi) distance of a marathon, with a finish time of roughly 11 years, 2 months.[43]

It is very similar to the Mars Pathfinder in design and is approximately 2.65 meters (8.7 ft) in diameter and 1.6 m (5.2 ft) tall, including the entry vehicle (see below).

The star scanner (without a backup system) and sun sensor allowed the spacecraft to know its orientation in space by analyzing the position of the Sun and other stars in relation to itself.

To ensure the spacecraft arrived at Mars in the right place for its landing, two light-weight, aluminium-lined tanks carried about 31 kg (about 68 lb) of hydrazine propellant.

The spacecraft used a high-frequency X band radio wavelength to communicate, which allowed for less power and smaller antennas than many older craft, which used S band.

Navigators sent commands through two antennas on the cruise stage: a cruise low-gain antenna mounted inside the inner ring, and a cruise medium-gain antenna in the outer ring.

It was specially formulated to react chemically with the Martian atmosphere during entry and carry heat away, leaving a hot wake of gas behind the vehicle.

The vehicle slowed from 19,000 to 1,600 km/h (5,300 to 440 m/s) in about a minute, producing about 60 m/s2 (6 g) of acceleration on the lander and rover.

The 2003 parachute design was part of a long-term Mars parachute technology development effort and is based on the designs and experience of the Viking and Pathfinder missions.

The parachute for this mission is 40% larger than Pathfinder's because the largest load for the Mars Exploration Rover is 80 to 85 kilonewtons (kN) or 80 to 85 kN (18,000 to 19,000 lbf) when the parachute fully inflates.

Zylon Bridles: After the parachute was deployed at an altitude of about 10 km (6.2 mi) above the surface, the heatshield was released using 6 separation nuts and push-off springs.

The slow descent down the metal tape placed the lander in position at the end of another bridle (tether), made of a nearly 20 m (66 ft) long braided Zylon.[45]

The Zylon bridle provides space for airbag deployment, distance from the solid rocket motor exhaust stream, and increased stability.

The bridle incorporates an electrical harness that allows the firing of the solid rockets from the backshell as well as provides data from the backshell inertial measurement unit (which measures rate and tilt of the spacecraft) to the flight computer in the rover.[45]

Rocket assisted descent (RAD) motors: Because the atmospheric density of Mars is less than 1% of Earth's, the parachute alone could not slow down the Mars Exploration Rover enough to ensure a safe, low landing speed.

When the radar measurement showed the lander was the correct distance above the surface, the Zylon bridle was cut, releasing the lander from the parachute and backshell so that it was free and clear for landing.

They had to be strong enough to cushion the spacecraft if it landed on rocks or rough terrain and allow it to bounce across Mars' surface at highway speeds (about 100 km/h) after landing.

The petal motors are strong enough so that if two of the petals come to rest on rocks, the base with the rover would be held in place like a bridge above the ground.

The base will hold at a level even with the height of the petals resting on rocks, making a straight flat surface throughout the length of the open, flattened lander.

The flight team on Earth could then send commands to the rover to adjust the petals and create a safe path for the rover to drive off the lander and onto the Martian surface without dropping off a steep rock.

They cover uneven terrain, rock obstacles, and airbag material, and form a circular area from which the rover can drive off in more directions.

The rovers are six-wheeled, solar-powered robots that stand 1.5 m (4.9 ft) high, 2.3 m (7.5 ft) wide and 1.6 m (5.2 ft) long.

Each rover has six wheels mounted on a rocker-bogie suspension system that ensures wheels remain on the ground while driving over rough terrain.

The design reduces the range of motion of the rover body by half, and allows the rover to go over obstacles or through holes that are more than a wheel diameter (250 millimeters (9.8 in)) in size.

However, the rover is programmed through its 'fault protection limits' in its hazard avoidance software to avoid exceeding tilts of 30 degrees.

The average speed is 10 mm/s, because its hazard avoidance software causes it to stop every 10 seconds for 20 seconds to observe and understand the terrain into which it has driven.

Its power system includes two rechargeable lithium ion batteries weighing 7.15 kg (15.8 lb) each, that provide energy when the sun is not shining, especially at night.

Solar panels were also considered for the MSL, but RTGs provide constant power, regardless of the time of day, and thus the versatility to work in dark environments and high latitudes where solar energy is not readily available.

The MSL generates 2.5 kilowatt hours per day, compared to the Mars Exploration Rovers, which can generate about 0.6 kilowatt hours per day.[51]

Over three Earth years later, however, the rovers' power supplies hovered between 300 watt-hours and 900 watt-hours per day, depending on dust coverage.

Cleaning events (dust removal by wind) have occurred more often than NASA expected, keeping the arrays relatively free of dust and extending the life of the mission.

At night, the rovers are heated by eight radioisotope heater units (RHU), which each continuously generate 1 W of thermal energy from the decay of radioisotopes, along with electrical heaters that operate only when necessary.

The rover has an X band low-gain and an X band high-gain antenna for communications to and from the Earth, as well as an ultra high frequency monopole antenna for relay communications.

The rovers use the UHF monopole and its CE505 radio to communicate with spacecraft orbiting Mars, the Mars Odyssey and (before its failure) the Mars Global Surveyor (already more than 7.6 terabits of data were transferred using its Mars Relay antenna and Mars Orbiter Camera's memory buffer of 12 MB).[53]

but most navigation camera images and image thumbnails are truncated to 8 bits per pixel to conserve memory and transmission time.

It produces progressive compression, both lossless and lossy, and incorporates an error-containment scheme to limit the effects of data loss on the deep-space channel.

The Azimuth Drive, mounted directly above the MDD, turns the assembly horizontally a whole revolution with signals transmitted through a rolling tape configuration.

Although the Gusev crater appears from orbital images to be a dry lakebed, the observations from the surface show the interior plains mostly filled with debris.

They contain the minerals olivine, pyroxene, plagioclase, and magnetite, and they look like volcanic basalt as they are fine-grained with irregular holes (geologists would say they have vesicles and vugs).[64][65] Much

rocks have been very slightly altered, probably by thin films of water because they are softer and contain veins of light colored material that may be bromine compounds, as well as coatings or rinds.

the middle of the six-year mission (a mission that was supposed to last only 90 days), large amounts of pure silica were found in the soil.

The silica could have come from the interaction of soil with acid vapors produced by volcanic activity in the presence of water or from water in a hot spring environment.[80]

After Spirit stopped working scientists studied old data from the Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer, or Mini-TES and confirmed the presence of large amounts of carbonate-rich rocks, which means that regions of the planet may have once harbored water.

The plains of the landing site were characterized by the presence of a large number of small spherules, spherical concretions that were tagged 'blueberries' by the science team, which were found both loose on the surface, and also embedded in the rock.

The layered bedrock revealed in the crater walls showed signs of being sedimentary in nature, and compositional and microscopic-imagery analysis showed this to be primarily with composition of Jarosite, a ferrous sulfate mineral that is characteristically an evaporite that is the residue from the evaporation of a salty pond or sea.[83][84]

extended mission took the rover across the plains to a series of larger craters in the south, with the arrival at the edge of a 25-km diameter crater, Endeavour Crater, eight years after landing.

Opportunity: Longest-Running Mars Rover

In 2015, it passed a driving milestone, reaching more than a marathon's worth of distance (26.2 miles, or 42.1 kilometers) –

In 2014 and early 2015, NASA made several attempts to restore Opportunity's flash memory capabilities after the rover experienced problems.

At the time, NASA said the only change to operations will be requiring Opportunity to send high-priority data right away, as it cannot be stored if the rover is turned off.

Site survey tools included a panoramic camera, as well as a mini-thermal emission spectrometer that was supposed to search for signs of heat.

Opportunity rolled to a stop inside a shallow crater just 66 feet (20 meters) across, delighting scientists as the first pictures beamed back from the Red Planet.

They would hunt for any environments that showed evidence of water activity, particularly looking for minerals that may have been left behind after water came through.

In early March, just six weeks after landing, Opportunity identified a rock outcrop that showed evidence of a liquid past.

The month wasn't yet over when Opportunity discovered more evidence of water, this time from images of a rock outcrop that probably formed from a deposit of saltwater in the ancient past.

Before Opportunity's 90-day prime mission was over, the golf-cart size rover clambered out of Eagle Crater and ventured to its next science target about half a mile away: Endurance Crater.

It took the rover about 629 feet (191 meters) of wheel rotations before it was able to move forward three feet, but it cut itself free in early June 2005.

NASA chose to move the rover forward in more careful increments, which was especially important because Opportunity lost the full use of its right-front wheel (because of a seized steering motor) just days before it got stuck in the sand.

Just 16 feet into a planned 148-foot drive, a slip check system on board automatically stopped the rover when it went past a programmed limit.

It circled the rim for a few months snapping pictures and getting a close look at some layered rocks surrounding the crater.

"The scientific allure is the chance to examine and investigate the compositions and textures of exposed materials in the crater's depths for clues about ancient, wet environments,"

"As the rover travels farther down the slope, it will be able to examine increasingly older rocks in the exposed walls of the crater."

Opportunity spent about a year wandering through Victoria Crater, getting an up-close look at the layers on the bottom and figuring that these were likely shaped by water.

Opportunity climbed out successfully in August 2008 and began a gradual journey to Endeavour, an incredible 13 miles (21 km) away.

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity completed a drive on July 17 that took the vehicle's total driving distance on Mars past 20 miles.

Eventually, officials elected to stop using Flash memory, move storage over to random access memory (RAM) instead, and find a way to address the problem more thoroughly.

In 2015, NASA decided to use RAM in most situations, which requires Opportunity to send high-priority data right away as the information cannot be stored if the rover is off.

It set an off-world driving record in July 2014 when it successfully passed 25.01 miles (40.2 kilometers), exceeding the distance from the Soviet Union's remote-controlled lunar Lunokhod 2 rover in 1973.

As engineers watched the rover's wheels slip in the sand, they decided (with some reluctance) to skip the target and move to the next thing.

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