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Daily Updates - January 24, 2005
Opportunity Status at end of sol 347-352

Opportunity completed its work on "Heat Shield Rock" during sols 347 through 352, then got into position for more observations of the heat shield. This rock is now known to be an iron-rich meteorite, thanks to findings of the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, Moessbauer spectrometer and the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. The rover remains in good health.

The team continues to closely monitor orbital images for signs of dust storms. Tau, a measure of the sky opacity, has hovered in the 0.8 to 0.9 range for the past week; tau was roughly 0.5 before recent dust disturbances in the region.

Since sol 331, a mottled pattern has been seen on sky portions of images from the rear hazard avoidance camera. The pattern was originally thought to be a sky pattern caused by the dust storm occurring at that time. After a closer look at the mottled pattern in subsequent images, it appears that there is actually a deposit of some sort on the rear hazard avoidance camera lenses. The deposit may be storm dust that blew in their direction. It might also be fine dust from the heat shield debris that blew onto them or was kicked up by Opportunity's wheels as it drove around the debris site. The team decided to go ahead with a final close-up imaging campaign of the heat shield despite the risk of further deposition on the camera lenses because of the rare opportunity to examine a spent heat shield on Mars. Rover drivers are taking extra precautions to drive around debris and to find safe orientations for the rover as it works. The team has decided to forgo observations at the heat shield divot due to the possibility of further contamination at that site.

Sol-by-sol summaries:
On sol 347, Opportunity unstowed its instrument deployment device (robotic arm) to take microscopic images of Heat Shield Rock, and then placed the Moessbauer spectrometer instrument on the rock for a 19-hour observation. Moessbauer integration times are longer now because the Moessbauer source has weakened as expected since landing.

On sol 348, the rover placed the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer instrument on Heat Shield Rock during the afternoon for an overnight observation. That instrument provides best results when it is cold.

On sol 349, the rover brushed an area on Heat Shield Rock using the rock abrasion tool, took microscopic images of the brushed spot, then placed the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer on the spot for another overnight observation.

350 - Opportunity changed tools on the arm to the Moessbauer instrument for another long observation on the brushed area.

351 - The rover changed tools on the arm back to the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer instrument again, putting it in place for another overnight observation of Heat Shield Rock.

352 - Opportunity took some final microscopic images of the rock then backed away for observations with the panoramic camera and miniature thermal emission spectrometer. The rover then drove to within about 1 meter (about 3.3 feet) of the largest piece of the heat shield in preparation for more observations of spent heat shield material with the microscopic imager.

Opportunity Daily Update Archive