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PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE - To MARS with MER
Spirit goes out for a "Sunday drive" and Opportunity is closing in!
Spirit goes out for a "Sunday drive" and Opportunity is closing in... The adventure continues!
Now Spirit is truly a rover, after putting the first meters on its odometer and cruising over to Adirondack, the first rock chosen for close-up study. Check out the animation from the Latest images link below, right, to see for yourself the rover's first short jaunt on Mars.
Meanwhile, last weekend, Opportunity's trajectory was fine tuned to take it to Meridiani Planum, on the other side of the planet. Engineers and managers are working hard to incorporate all the data learned from Spirit's landing to make final adjustments about how high to open the parachute, and just when to fire the rockets, in order to make this second Entry, Descent and Landing as safe as possible. They hope that Spirit's success means there's no design flaw in the basic spacecraft, but still some "sharp, pointy rock", as Steve Squyres says in P2K's BOUNCING TO MARS, or some change in the Martian weather, could make Opportunity's landing even more risky. Stay tuned for all the latest!
Last Saturday also saw P2K's live FIRST LOOK special. Unfortunately NASA-TV did not carry the program as scheduled (we always indicated NTV might pre-empt), but many PBS stations did air FIRST LOOK live, or tape for future replays. However, FIRST LOOK will appear in the Education File. You can also check out the archived web version in the near future. (See WATCH THE VIDEOS, View Now.) The Houston Museum of Natural Science was packed with 3,000 enthusiastic youngsters and their families, and a good time was had by "kids of all ages", in the words of host, Bill Nye the Science Guy. Though rain dampened egg-drop parachutes, and the sundial was cloudy, Houston area youngsters got questions answered by Mars Exploration Rover team members at JPL. More than 600 people also gathered in Brownsville, mentored by NASA JSC educators: thanks to all P2K's partners in Houston, Brownsville and NASA JPL, and especially to Cathy Weitz, Nagin Cox, Zoe Learner, Donna Shirley, Orlando Figueroa, Steve Squyres, Wayne Lee, Kobie Boykins and Stephenie Lievense, who took time away from rest and sleep to appear on camera. Along with breakthrough science and engineering, we're delighted to find NASA and JPL so supportive of education and outreach.
Check out the latest press releases, browse Steve Squyres' recent Journals, and think good thoughts for the ongoing adventures of Spirit and Opportunity.
Mars Rover Opportunity Mission Status
January 16, 2004
With barely a week before reaching Mars, NASA's Opportunity spacecraft adjusted its trajectory, or flight path, today for the first time in four months.
The spacecraft carries a twin to the Spirit rover, which is now exploring Mars' Gusev Crater. It will land halfway around Mars, in a region called Meridiani Planum, on Jan. 25 (Universal Time and EST; Jan. 24 at 9:05 p.m., PST).
For today's trajectory correction maneuver, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., commanded Opportunity at 6 p.m. PST to fire thrusters in a sequence carefully calculated by the mission's navigators. The spacecraft is spinning at two rotations per minute. The maneuver began with a 20-second burn in the direction of the axis of rotation, then included two 5-second pulses perpendicular to that axis.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell University
"Looks like we got a nice burn out of Opportunity," said JPL's Jim Erickson, mission manager. "We're on target for our date on the plains of Meridiani next Saturday with a healthy spacecraft."
Before the thruster firings, Opportunity was headed for a landing about 384 kilometers (239 miles) west and south of the intended landing site, said JPL's Christopher Potts, deputy navigation team chief for the Mars Exploration Rover Project. The maneuver was designed to put it on course for the target.
Opportunity's schedule still includes two more possible trajectory correction maneuvers, on Jan. 22 and Jan. 24, but the maneuvers will only be commanded if needed.
As of 5 a.m. Sunday, PST, Opportunity will have traveled 444 million kilometers (276 million miles) since its July 7 launch, and will have 12.5 million kilometers (7.8 million miles) left to go.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Additional information about the project is available from JPL at http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov and from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., at http://athena.cornell.edu .