Daily Updates - August 3, 2004
Spirit Status at end of sol 201 - 204
Mars has seasons like the Earth does, but the seasons are twice as long due to Mars' larger orbit around the Sun. Right now, Mars is approaching northern summer. That also means that it's approaching southern martian winter at the same time. So Spirit is headed for winter, being 14 degrees south of the equator. Because martian winter is setting in, solar array energy continues to be a concern for Spirit. If Spirit parks with a northerly tilt, the rover will see between 350 and 380 watt-hours of energy, but if Spirit stops on flat ground or with a southerly tilt, solar energy is as low as 280 watt-hours. So engineers make a concerted effort to find the north-facing islands along Spirit's path.
On Sol 201, Spirit was commanded to drive 98 feet (30 meters) across terrain that was pretty steep. Spirit accomplished 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) then stopped due to an excessive tilt angle of 25.6 degrees. Engineers had set the maximum tilt angle limit at 25 degrees. Spirit did complete pre-drive science observations and post-drive imaging.
On sol 202, Spirit repeated the drive plan from sol 201 with the maximum tilt angle set to 32 degrees. This time the rover completed the drive as planned, traveling 83.6 feet (25.5) meters up the hill. Spirit then performed post-drive imaging.
On sol 203, scientists' hope was to find rock outcropping in this location, but none were found. So the decision was made to continue the drive up the hill to find a better rock outcrop. Spirit performed another six-wheel, 62-foot (19-meter) drive. This drive was completed successfully; however, at the end of the drive, Spirit drove into a small hollow. As a result, Spirit was pitched 15 degrees toward the southwest, and ended up with a southerly tilt.
Planning for sol 204 was very exciting due to the late downlink of information from sol 203. Very late in the planning cycle, available power on sol 204 was reduced from 370 watt-hours to 288 watt-hours. Ouch! Pre-drive observations were cut back to 17 minutes, during which the motors were heated for driving. Spirit drove only 0.82 feet (0.25 meters). Because the drive was so short, the power situation is not as bad as it could have been.
Total odometry after sol 204, which ended on July 30, is 2.21 miles (3,565.57 meters). Total elevation above the plains of Gusev Crater is estimated to be 30 feet (9 meters).
Over the next few sols, scientists and engineers hope to make it to "Clovis" rock outcrop and to recharge the batteries.
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