MER press briefing, January 30, 2004

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January 30, 2004[edit]

Good morning and welcome to JPL. It's 10 am Spirit in Gusev . It's sol 27, 10am at Opportunity in Meridiani.

Mark Adler (mission manager): Sol 27 for spirit. Still working the anomaly. On sol 25 we did in fact start some normal operations. Took a front Hazcam showing arm on Adirondack. Shows we're still on Mars :D Everything right where we left it. We also got HGA working so are able to have normal HGA communications during day which is important for working on this anomaly. On sol 26 more operation with instruments. Got data from Mossbauer and APSX. Also took several color Pancam images. Show the next slide. Up at the top is the calibration target. Next is the Sun. On the bottom we have an image of Cake and Blanco. Jim Bell provided us with these color calibrated images. We also yesterday completed a scan of flash memory provided us with some important diagnostic info. Mounting flash takes more system ram than we have available. Helps confirm the theory we had that we're running out of memory when trying to mount flash. Still don't know if it's number of files or other characteristics of the contents of the flash. Today on sol 27 continue with task trace going on right now. Take some piece of memory when it's run up mode where it's not functioning normally and see if that shows trace information of what routines were running when the system got hung up. Then we'll bring system back up in cripple mode and delete from flash memory a large number of cruise phase files By doing that, it may provide enough of a change in state of the flash file system to not require as much memory to mount flash. Then we'll try to reboot into normal mode, non-cripple mode and see if the system comes up. We're hopeful that it will come up and if it does we'll resume normal operations and do some housekeeping on the system and begin to play back some of the data in the flash in preparation for a possible flash file format tomorrow. If that doesn't work we'll go back to cripple mode and get more diagnostic info and replan for tomorrow as to whether or not we want to do a format or what is the next step we want to take. Sol 28, if everything goes well, mini-TES checkout, flight software check. Sol 29 hopefully normal operations.

Daniel Limonadi (rover system engineer): Sol 6, about 10 PM at Opportunity. Good couple of days, a bit ahead of schedule. We've deleted same files that they'll be deleting on Spirit. That went well. Gave a boost to Spirit guys. Deployed rear wheels, moved rear lander petal down to get our egress path better. Retracted rear airbags and moved lander petal down. Made our egress path better. Now have a very benign egress path. Released rear wheels, that went well. Released middle wheels. Then we deployed, wiggled, and stowed IDD for drive. Tonight doing instrument checks on Mossbauer and APSX, both a functional check to make sure everything still works after the pyro fire for IDD as well as an overnight calibration. Tomorrow, sol 7, we cut the last pyro device of 60 plus devices. We will then do a small egress bump to drive forward to test mobility actuators. If all goes well, we'll egress at the end of sol 7. We're ahead of schedule. Take advantage of the fact that Opportunity treats us well, and get into a better power state, get the rover on the ground for science. We have some egress video. Preview of what is going to happen tonight. Rover roughly the attitude we have on Mars, recreated in the Issel(sp?) sandbox. 10° nosedown pitch on rover. Egress aid tips are in the dirt. Recreated anatomy of the crater. Very benign egress path. Not too worried about the egress path so we're gonna get on the ground, six wheels on the ground in Meridiani Planum.

Dr. Ron Li (science team member from Ohio State): You've seen spectacular Pancam mosaic from Opportunity taken on sol 2 and 3. Stereo images in 360 degrees. We've processed them and turned them into 3-D model. The process we have applied to get this model is pretty precise and we use a method called barner(?) adjustment that increases accuracy of pointing angles. Next is contour map derived from the 3-D provides elevations. The fact that the lander is inside the crater provides good opportunity to map inside of a crater. Ray Arvidson says first time we've mapped from inside a crater. This data will be used 1. to characterize crater itself, so here we see variation in terms of shape and elevation and size of different features. Each pixel is about .5 meters and you can use it to characterize geologic features in craters. 2. we see terrain pretty clearly here. Pretty good slope to northwest direction. Gives you several candidates for planning rover exit paths. 3. we have size and shape so we can match it to images taken overhead by orbiter or DIMES. Can match to localize where the lander is.

Ray Arvidson (deputy principal investigator): This is really a day of firsts. First time mapping planetary crater from inside. 22 meter diameter, 3 meters deep. Not a brand new crater. Meridiani Planum deposits look like they're being stripped by wind. Some sediment on inside, on outside, bedrock being exposed. We'll be combining this topo with morphology and color and spectral properties to determine relative age of the crater and how it fits into the geology . Second first will be the first microscopic image ever taken in situ on another planet. We have a series of 7 MI we acquired from sol 17 on Adirondack. It's about 20 cm high. First Hazcam image of Adirondack. Now a Pancam view. And finally a little square about 3cm across with the MI. Orders of magnitude change in spatial resolution. Looking at a rock that if you were a geologist that if you were there and whacked it with a hammer it would ring. Very hard, very fine-grained. Third first is first ever Mossbauer view of a rock in situ on another planet.

Bodo Bernhardt (university of Mainz): This graph is the first ever Mossbauer spectrum on a Martian rock. Taken some days ago and was recorded for a period of more than 12 hours. Why stare 12 hours? Answer is that the longer we acquire, the more details we can see so the more patient we are the better is the signal to noise ratio. We were extremely happy to see the small peaks you see to the right and left. The intensive lines we already know from the earlier spectrum but the small peaks are now visible. No doubt what we see here. To explain minerology over to Dick Morris.

Dick Morris: We really do appreciate engineers rescuing this cool spectrum. Thank you guys. What does it tell us. The positions and peaks tell us about oxidation states and minerology of iron. We only detect iron. Tallest two peaks are iron2+ and olivine. We detected that in soil a few days ago. Less intense doublet in light blue pyroxene, irn2+ and pyroxene. Really light blue due to iron3+ but don't know what mineral. May be associated with weathering. Bodo alluded to the not so intense but very special lines , this pattern is the fingerprint of magnetite, an iron oxide. Together Olivine, Pyroxene and Magnetite tell us it's a good volcanic rock, an olivine bearing basalt. Is this unusual? We don't know for Mars yet. On Earth it's one of the most common kinds of rocks we find.

Q. Opportunity questions. Has mini-TES on Opportunity found hematite? Are you not where you thought you were positioned to those craters?

Ray: We did acquire an octant of beautiful mini-TES data a couple days ago. Team busy analyzing it. There are intriguing variations from place to place that seem to correlate with the different materials in the plains and the bedrock and the interior. You'll have to come to a subsequent session to hear the data.You'll be delighted at the result but we're still in the process.

Daniel: we're obviously in a crater. I Haven't heard anything that says we don't know where we are.

Ray: We're definitely in a crater :D We're waiting on the EDL data from flash to reconstruct the bounce history. We've done radio science and it's a different position than where we thought we were. We need to look at images, combine with radio and EDL reconstruction data. We don't seem to be in the crater that Tim Parker put is in initially. (Tim from the back of the room "sorry" :)

Daniel: EDL did come down today. Waiting on MGS for high-res.

Q. Mark, do you have any thinking of what Spirit will be doing when it's up and operating. Ray, did mini-TES not work well? Why the mystery?

Ray: mini-TES is complex instrument and spectra are a bit difficult to interpret. They need time to get this done. They have huge smiles on their faces in mini-TES team.

Mark: Trying to decide if we'll brush or RAT, first, not sure but we do want to finish science on Adirondack and then move to next target.

Q. Ray, what are they smiling about? They've seen something, probably hematite. They're familiar with that, I'd assume. It's hard for us to understand why it's not available. Also, it seems the process is a little different with Opportunity while still on platform. Spirit did more science on the lander, a full pano of Pancam and mini-TES. Is that happening with Opportunity.

Ray: Information is new and they want to check and double check before they make an announcement. Remember we're just on sol 6 going into 7 with Opportunity and we egressed on sol 12 with Spirit. We do have a full panorama from Pancam and we do have one full octant from Mini-TES. I believe we acquired two octants on sol 6 and bits and pieces of other targets. Feeling is to get off the lander and on to the surface, do some soil observation and get over to the outcropping. Tradeoff between acquiring complete pancam and mini-TES panoramas and getting over to that very exciting outcropping.

Q. For Dan, PST egress time?

Daniel: Go for Egress at 12:30 am PST. Command takes about an hour. Data at about 3-3:30 am.

Q. For Mark, Spirit been there almost a month, is it a third of its lifetime over? Ray, are you happy with the science?

Mark: We have observed the experienced the solar degradation we expected. Because of better power and thermal characteristics we've observed it may got month or two longer than plan. We have gone through a third of our warrantee but I expect we've got a few more months to go.

Ray: Science with Gusev on Spirit. New info on Adirondack. Seems to be a good hard volcanic rock, maphic rock. A basalt, suggests it may be excavated from below by craters or broken out lava flows or transported in. Not the kind of smoking gun evidence for climactic history. I suspect we'll take a look at some of these white rocks. If they don't look interesting then as quickly as possible try to do a traverse over to Bonneville crater about 250 meters away. Try to use the fact that nature overturns stratigraphy to see if we can determine other rocks that might tell us about the lake history of Gusev crater. Science is just beginning. Strategic plan to do this radial traverse. For Opportunity it's less than a week and we totally lucked out landing in this crater. 22 m wide, 3 m deep. Fairly easy to egress from but take some time looking at this outcrop. After we're off the lander, sol 7, tonight we'll be looking at the soil and then getting over to the bedrock outcrop and doing some Pancam and Microscopic imaging. Help explain if the process is due to windblown, volcanic or lakebed. All the instruments we'll use to infer what's going on. For Opportunity and Meridiani, we're just at the beginning of the process. Totally ecstatic that we might be on the surface tonight.

Q. Can you tell us more about the arm heater. Best estimate of when we'll see the full Pancam?

Daniel: Nearterm no impact. Longterm still looking at our options. Pancam acquired. Within a couple of sols we should have everything down.

Q. Was that the compressed version or full Mossbauer.

Mark: Compressed version.

Q More spectral traces, data on lily pads? Any newer thought on compaction?

Ray: turn it over to Dick Morris. I haven't seen recent data.

Dick: I've been busy working on Mossbauer so I can't address that yet. Stay tuned.

Q. Which rocks did Mini-TES look.

Ray: Papa395 points right at bedrock, kinda northwest.

Q. For Daniel. Can you shake dust off the solar array.

Daniel: We don't have a mechanism for that. We didn't plan for that. Not a design requirement. At one point we were contemplating lifting solar arrays. Evidence with pathfinder that the decay slowed at the end.

Mark: Dust is very very fine and electrostatically binds. Even if you turned them upside down and shook them, it probably wouldn't come off. We simply accepted that we'd get the lifetime we needed with this design.

Q. Do you have enough Opportunity Pancam to know where you'll go.

Ray: pretty clear we'll egress in +X direction. (I got a phone call and missed quite a bit here.)

Ray: low dunes are interesting. It may be that we want to traverse to this nearby crater that's in the DIMES image. Moving to that crater would allow us to do another radial ejecta survey.

Ron: The outcrop in the right direction for exiting the crater too.

Q. When will you RAT?

Ray: There is a lot of interest in the coatings and that relates to whether or not the so called white rocks are different than the standard volcanic rocks with a dust coating. So brushing first to see if we can remove some of the coating, then RATting and then looking at the mineralogical and chemical difference is in the plans. Then hopefully we'll head for the ejecta deposits at Bonneville.

Q. which way facing with Opportunity. Where does outcropping lie. How long to drive ther

Ray: outcrop is northwest we're facing west. Once we do initial soil observation it will be at best a couple of sols before we get there. Then we'll need some fine positioning to get the particular rock. I can't wait.

Daniel: template from spirit was about 3 sols to get on the ground and the instruments positioned.

Q. For Dr. Morris. Can you explain scientific value to finding a bog-standard basalt that you could find in any mountain range on Earth. Is it smoking gun for no water? All this olivine speaks to an absence of water.

Dick: Yes it does but the weathering rinds and ferric dust speaks to pervasive weathering processes on the planet that could be water driven. So even though we're seeing these rocks that formed under dry conditions, all these dry things have been weathered and that's seen aqueous altering.

Ray: on Earth where you find basalts you can also find limestone. Mars is a real planet and we hope that as we do this radial traverse to Bonneville, to see ejecta that comes from beneath the Basaltic layer, if there is indeed a basaltic layer. If not we'll head for the hills. May not get there but we'll get higher and higher resolution views with Pancam and Mini-TES data.

Q. For Mark, given Spirit glitches, any operational characteristics driving it that will be different?

Mark: We don't expect any impact at all in driving. In our current mode, we could go driving if we wanted to. Main limitation if we can't get flash working which we expect to is we couldn't store images over night. We'd have to make sure we get the hazard and pancam images down each day. Once we get flash working it's back to normal operations.

Q. Mark, more on Spirit software. Before you do what you do on Mars are you running the commands on boxes here.

Mark: we have a lot of very tired flight software guys running all of our commands, scripts and software uploads here in testbeds before we send them up to the spacecraft. Essential during the anomaly phase to characterize the problem and try to replicate the behavior we see on the spacecraft. A lot of work on replication and testing commands we send to the spacecraft

Briefing note: We'll have commentary of rolloff 3-3:30 am on NASA TV, possibly earlier. Check the website for time updates.

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