Spirit rover

Spirit rover

Overview

Spirit, MER-A is a robotic rover on Mars
Mars Rover
A Mars rover is an automated motor vehicle which propels itself across the surface of the planet Mars after landing.Rovers have several advantages over stationary landers: they examine more territory, they can be directed to interesting features, they can place themselves in sunny positions to...

, active from 2004 to 2010. It was one of two rovers
Rover (space exploration)
A rover is a space exploration vehicle designed to move across the surface of a planet or other astronomical body. Some rovers have been designed to transport members of a human spaceflight crew; others have been partially or fully autonomous robots...

 of NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

's ongoing Mars Exploration Rover
Mars Exploration Rover
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, exploring the planet Mars...

 Mission. It landed successfully on Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 at 04:35 Ground UTC on January 4, 2004, three weeks before its twin, Opportunity
Opportunity rover
Opportunity, MER-B , is a robotic rover on the planet Mars, active since 2004. It is the remaining rover in NASA's ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission...

 (MER-B), landed on the other side of the planet. Its name was chosen through a NASA-sponsored student essay competition. The rover became stuck in late 2009, and its last communication with Earth was sent on March 22, 2010.

The rover completed its planned 90-sol mission.
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Spirit, MER-A is a robotic rover on Mars
Mars Rover
A Mars rover is an automated motor vehicle which propels itself across the surface of the planet Mars after landing.Rovers have several advantages over stationary landers: they examine more territory, they can be directed to interesting features, they can place themselves in sunny positions to...

, active from 2004 to 2010. It was one of two rovers
Rover (space exploration)
A rover is a space exploration vehicle designed to move across the surface of a planet or other astronomical body. Some rovers have been designed to transport members of a human spaceflight crew; others have been partially or fully autonomous robots...

 of NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

's ongoing Mars Exploration Rover
Mars Exploration Rover
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, exploring the planet Mars...

 Mission. It landed successfully on Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 at 04:35 Ground UTC on January 4, 2004, three weeks before its twin, Opportunity
Opportunity rover
Opportunity, MER-B , is a robotic rover on the planet Mars, active since 2004. It is the remaining rover in NASA's ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission...

 (MER-B), landed on the other side of the planet. Its name was chosen through a NASA-sponsored student essay competition. The rover became stuck in late 2009, and its last communication with Earth was sent on March 22, 2010.

The rover completed its planned 90-sol mission. Aided by cleaning event
Cleaning event
A cleaning event is a phenomenon whereby dust is removed from solar panels, particularly ones on Mars, by the action of wind. The term cleaning event is used on several NASA webpages; generally the term is used in reference to the fact that Martian winds have blown dust clear of the solar panels of...

s that resulted in higher power from its solar panels, Spirit went on to function effectively over twenty times longer than NASA planners expected following mission completion. Spirit also logged 7.73 km (4.8 mi) of driving instead of the planned 600 m (0.372823641989884 mi), allowing more extensive geological
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

 analysis of Martian rocks and planetary surface features. Initial scientific results from the first phase of the mission (the 90-sol
Timekeeping on Mars
Various schemes have been used or proposed to keep track of time and date on the planet Mars independently of Earth time and calendars.Mars has an axial tilt and a rotation period similar to those of Earth. Thus it experiences seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter much like Earth, and its...

 prime mission) were published in a special issue of the journal Science.

On May 1, 2009 (5 years, 3 months, 27 Earth days after landing; 21.6 times the planned mission duration), Spirit became stuck in soft soil. 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,
though it continued to perform scientific research from its current location.

The rover continued in a stationary science platform role until communication with Spirit stopped on sol 2210 (March 22, 2010). JPL continued to attempt to regain contact until May 24, 2011, when NASA announced that efforts to communicate with the unresponsive rover had ended. A formal farewell was planned at NASA headquarters after the Memorial Day holiday and was televised on NASA TV
NASA TV
NASA TV is the television service of the United States government agency NASA. NASA TV is broadcast by satellite with a simulcast over the Internet. Local cable television systems across the U.S. and amateur television repeaters may carry NASA TV at their discretion, as NASA-created content is...

.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. The facility is headquartered in the city of Pasadena on the border of La Cañada Flintridge and Pasadena...

 (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology
The California Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering...

 in Pasadena, manages the
Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington.

Objectives



The scientific objectives of the Mars Exploration Rover mission were to:
  • Search for and characterize a variety of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water
    Water
    Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

     activity. In particular, samples sought will include those that have minerals deposited by water-related processes such as precipitation
    Precipitation (meteorology)
    In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation (also known as one of the classes of hydrometeors, which are atmospheric water phenomena is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that falls under gravity. The main forms of precipitation...

    , evaporation
    Water vapor
    Water vapor or water vapour , also aqueous vapor, is the gas phase of water. It is one state of water within the hydrosphere. Water vapor can be produced from the evaporation or boiling of liquid water or from the sublimation of ice. Under typical atmospheric conditions, water vapor is continuously...

    , sedimentary cementation
    Sedimentary rock
    Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....

     or hydrothermal activity.
  • Determine the distribution and composition of minerals, rocks, and soils surrounding the landing sites.
  • Determine what geologic processes
    Geology of Mars
    The geology of Mars is the scientific study of the surface, crust, and interior of the planet Mars. It emphasizes the composition, structure, history, and physical processes that shape the planet. It is fully analogous to the field of terrestrial geology. In planetary science, the term geology is...

     have shaped the local terrain and influenced the chemistry. Such processes could include water or wind erosion, sedimentation, hydrothermal mechanisms, volcanism, and cratering.
  • Perform calibration and validation of surface observations made by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is a NASA multipurpose spacecraft designed to conduct reconnaissance and Exploration of Mars from orbit...

     instruments. This will help determine the accuracy and effectiveness of various instruments that survey Martian geology
    Geology of Mars
    The geology of Mars is the scientific study of the surface, crust, and interior of the planet Mars. It emphasizes the composition, structure, history, and physical processes that shape the planet. It is fully analogous to the field of terrestrial geology. In planetary science, the term geology is...

     from orbit.
  • Search for iron
    Iron
    Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

    -containing minerals, identify and quantify relative amounts of specific mineral types that contain water or were formed in water, such as iron-bearing carbonates.
  • Characterize the mineralogy
    Mineralogy
    Mineralogy is the study of chemistry, crystal structure, and physical properties of minerals. Specific studies within mineralogy include the processes of mineral origin and formation, classification of minerals, their geographical distribution, as well as their utilization.-History:Early writing...

     and textures of rocks and soils and determine the processes that created them.
  • Search for geological clues to the environmental conditions
    Environmental science
    Environmental science is an interdisciplinary academic field that integrates physical and biological sciences, to the study of the environment, and the solution of environmental problems...

     that existed when liquid water was present.
  • Assess whether those environments were conducive to life
    Life
    Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...

    .


During the next two decades, NASA would continue to conduct missions to address whether life ever arose on Mars. The search began with determining whether the Martian environment was ever suitable for life. Life, as we understand it, requires water, so the history of water on Mars is critical to finding out if the Martian environment was ever conducive to life. Although the Mars Exploration Rovers did not have the ability to detect life directly, they offered very important information on the habitability of the environment during the planet's history.

Design and construction




Spirit (and its twin, Opportunity
Opportunity rover
Opportunity, MER-B , is a robotic rover on the planet Mars, active since 2004. It is the remaining rover in NASA's ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission...

) are six-wheeled, solar-powered robots standing 1.5 m (4.9 ft) high, 2.3 m (7.5 ft) wide and 1.6 m (5.2 ft) long and weighing 180 kg (400 lb). Six wheels on a rocker-bogie
Rocker-bogie
The Rocker-Bogie system is the suspension arrangement used in the Mars rovers introduced for the Mars Pathfinder and also used on the Mars Exploration Rover and Mars Science Laboratory missions. It is currently NASA's favored design....

 system enable mobility over rough terrain. Each wheel has its own motor. The vehicle is steered at front and rear and is designed to operate safely at tilts of up to 30 degrees. Maximum speed is 50 mm/s (2 in/s); 0.18 km/h, although average speed is about 10 mm/s (0.4 in/s). Both Spirit and Opportunity have pieces of the fallen World Trade Center
World Trade Center
The original World Trade Center was a complex with seven buildings featuring landmark twin towers in Lower Manhattan, New York City, United States. The complex opened on April 4, 1973, and was destroyed in 2001 during the September 11 attacks. The site is currently being rebuilt with five new...

's metal
Metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

 on them which were "turned into shields to protect cables on the drilling mechanisms".

Solar arrays generate about 140 watt
Watt
The watt is a derived unit of power in the International System of Units , named after the Scottish engineer James Watt . The unit, defined as one joule per second, measures the rate of energy conversion.-Definition:...

s for up to four hours per Martian day (sol) while rechargeable lithium ion batteries store energy for use at night. Spirit's onboard computer uses a 20 MHz RAD6000 CPU with 128 MB of DRAM, 3 MB of EEPROM, and 256 MB of flash memory. The rover's operating temperature
Operating temperature
An operating temperature is the temperature at which an electrical or mechanical device operates. The device will operate effectively within a specified temperature range which varies based on the device function and application context, and ranges from the minimum operating temperature to the...

 ranges from −40 °C to +40 °C (−40 °F to 104 °F) and radioisotope heater unit
Radioisotope heater unit
Radioisotope heater units are small devices that provide heat through radioactive decay. They are similar to tiny radioisotope thermoelectric generators , and normally provide about one watt of heat each, derived from the decay of a few grams of plutonium 238, although other radioactive isotopes...

s provide a base level of heating, assisted by electrical heaters when necessary. A gold film and a layer of silica aerogel
Aerogel
Aerogel is a synthetic porous material derived from a gel, in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. The result is a solid with extremely low density and thermal conductivity...

 provide insulation.

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. A low gain antenna is also used to relay data to spacecraft orbiting Mars.

Fixed science instruments include
  • Panoramic Camera (Pancam) – examines the texture, color, mineralogy, and structure of the local terrain.
  • Navigation Camera (Navcam) – monochrome with a higher field of view but lower resolution, for navigation and driving.
  • Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES
    Mini-TES
    ]The Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer is an infrared spectrometer used for detecting the composition of a material from a distance...

    ) – identifies promising rocks and soils for closer examination, and determines the processes that formed them.


The rover arm holds the following instruments
  • Mössbauer spectrometer (MB) MIMOS II
    MIMOS II
    MIMOS II is the miniaturised Mössbauer spectrometer, developed by Dr. Göstar Klingelhöfer at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, that is used on the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity for close-up investigations on the Martian surface of the mineralogy of iron-bearing...

     – used for close-up investigations of the mineralogy of iron-bearing rocks and soils.
  • Alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS) – close-up analysis of the abundances of elements that make up rocks and soils.
  • Magnets – for collecting magnetic dust particles.
  • Microscopic Imager (MI) – obtains close-up, high-resolution images of rocks and soils.
  • Rock Abrasion Tool
    Rock Abrasion Tool
    The Rock Abrasion Tool is a grinding and brushing installation on NASA’s twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity , which landed on Mars in January 2004...

     (RAT) – exposes fresh material for examination by instruments on-board.


The cameras produce 1024-pixel by 1024-pixel images, the data is compressed, stored, and transmitted later.

Mission overview


The primary surface mission for Spirit was planned to last at least 90 sols
Timekeeping on Mars
Various schemes have been used or proposed to keep track of time and date on the planet Mars independently of Earth time and calendars.Mars has an axial tilt and a rotation period similar to those of Earth. Thus it experiences seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter much like Earth, and its...

. The mission has received several extensions and had passed 1,800 sols. 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
Viking 2
The Viking 2 mission was part of the American Viking program to Mars, and consisted of an orbiter and a lander essentially identical to that of the Viking 1 mission. The Viking 2 lander operated on the surface for 1,281 Mars days and was turned off on 11 April 1980 when its batteries failed...

 lander. Viking 2 was powered by a nuclear cell whereas Spirit is powered by solar arrays. Until Opportunity overtook it on 19 May 2010, the Mars probe with longest operational period was Viking 1
Viking 1
Viking 1 was the first of two spacecraft sent to Mars as part of NASA's Viking program. It was the first spacecraft to successfully land on Mars and perform its mission, and until May 19, 2010 held the record for the second longest Mars surface mission of 6 years and 116 days .- Mission :Following...

 which lasted for 2245 Sols on the surface of Mars. On March 22, 2010, Spirit sent its last communication, thus falling just over a month short of surpassing Viking 1's operational record. An archive of weekly updates on the rover's status can be found at the Spirit Update Archive.

Spirit's total odometry as of February 1, 2010 (sol 2165) is 7730.48 metres (4.8 mi).

2004


The Spirit Mars rover and lander arrived successfully on the surface of Mars on 04:35 Ground UTC on January 4, 2004. This was the start of its 90-sol mission, but solar cell cleaning events would mean it was the start of a much longer mission, lasting at least until 2010.

Landing site: Columbia Memorial Station


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
Impact crater
In the broadest sense, the term impact crater can be applied to any depression, natural or manmade, resulting from the high velocity impact of a projectile with a larger body...

 about 10 km (6.2 mi) from the center of the target ellipse at 14.5718°S 175.4785°E.

After the airbag-protected landing craft settled onto the surface, the rover rolled out to take panoramic images. 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 27 km away. The MER team named the landing site "Columbia Memorial Station," in honor of the seven astronauts killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster occurred on February 1, 2003, when shortly before it was scheduled to conclude its 28th mission, STS-107, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, resulting in the death of all seven crew members...

.

Sleepy Hollow


"Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow (Mars)
Sleepy Hollow is the name given to a circular, shallow depression in Gusev Crater on Mars near the landing site of the Mars Exploration Rover "Spirit" in 2004.About 12 meters from the landing site, Sleepy Hollow measures about 9 meters across....

," 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. NASA scientists were very interested in this crater. It is 9 meters (30 feet) across and about 12 meters (40 feet) north of the lander.

"Just as the ancient mariners used sextants for 'shooting the Sun,' as they called it, we were successfully able to shoot the Sun with our panorama camera, then use that information to point the antenna," said JPL's Steven Amato, mission manager.

First color image



To the right is the first color image derived from images taken by the panoramic camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit. It was the highest resolution image taken on the surface of another planet. "We're seeing a panoramic mosaic of four pancam images high by three wide," said camera designer Jim Bell of Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

. The picture shown originally had a full size of 4,000 by 3,000 pixels. 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. (For a technical explanation, see colors outside the range of the human eye.)

The MER pancams are black-and-white instruments. Thirteen rotating filter wheels produce multiple images of the same scene at different wavelengths. Once received on earth, these images can be combined to produce color images.

Sol 18 (January 21, 2004) flash memory management anomaly


On January 21, 2004 (Sol 18), Spirit abruptly ceased communicating with mission control. 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. Commands would only be responded to intermittently. This was described as a very serious anomaly, but potentially recoverable if it were a software or memory corruption issue rather than a serious hardware failure. 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
X band
The X band is a segment of the microwave radio region of the electromagnetic spectrum. In some cases, such as in communication engineering, the frequency range of X band is rather indefinitely set at approximately 7.0 to 11.2 gigahertz . In radar engineering, the frequency range is specified...

 to Mars Odyssey. The readings from the engineering data suggested that the rover was not staying in sleep mode. As such, it was wasting its battery power and overheating — risk factors that could potentially destroy the rover if not fixed soon. On Sol 20, the command team sent it the command SHUTDWN_DMT_TIL ("Shutdown Dammit Until