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Lessons from Mars Rover

January 25, 2012

Opportunity digs a trench!

“What’s underneath is different than what’s at the immediate surface”

We took a patient, gentle approach to digging”

Networking from a Martian rover perspective!

The rover alternately pushed soil forward and backward out of the trench with its right front wheel while other wheels held the rover in place. The rover turned slightly between bouts of digging to widen the hole. “We took a patient, gentle approach to digging”, Biesiadecki said. The process lasted 22 minutes.

The resulting trench—the first dug by either Mars Exploration Rover—is about 50 centimeters (20 inches) long and 10 centimeters (4 inches) deep. “It came out deeper than I expected”, said Dr. Rob Sullivan of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., a science-team member who worked closely with engineers to plan the digging.

Two features that caught scientists’ attention were the clotty texture of soil in the upper wall of the trench and the brightness of soil on the trench floor, Sullivan said.

By inspecting the sides and floor of a hole it dug, Opportunity found some things it did not see beforehand, including round pebbles that are shiny and soil so fine-grained that the rover’s microscope cannot make out individual particles.

“What’s underneath is different than what’s at the immediate surface”, said Dr. Albert Yen, rover science team member at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif

This image, taken by the microscopic imager, reveals shiny, spherical objects embedded within the trench wall

“Blueberries” (hematite spheres) on a rocky outcrop at Eagle Crater. Note the merged triplet in the upper left.

 

 

 

Background

 

OpportunityMER-B (Mars Exploration Rover – B), is a robotic rover on the planet Mars, active since 2004. It is the remaining rover inNASA‘s ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission. Launched from Earth on 7 July 2003, it landed on the Martian Meridiani Planum on 25 January 2004 at 05:05 Ground UTC (about 13:15 local time), three weeks after its twin Spirit (MER-A) touched down on the other side of the planet.[4]

 

Opportunity in April 2003

As of Sol 2700 (29 August 2011), Opportunity has continued to function effectively 30 times longer than its planned 90-sol mission, aided by solar cell cleaning events, and it continues to perform extensive geological analysis of Martian rocks and planetary surface features.[5]Its twin, the Spirit rover, became immobile in 2009 and in 2010 ceased communications.

Mission highlights include completion of the 90-sol (90 Martian days) mission, discovery of the first meteorite on another planet, Heat Shield Rock (Meridiani Planum), and over two years studying Victoria crater. The rover narrowly survived dust-storms in 2007, and has reached the rim of Endeavour craterOpportunity had driven more than 34 kilometres (21 mi) by 22 November 2011 (sol 2783), as preparations were being made for the coming Martian winter.

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