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A Happy Winter Solstice For Mars Rover Opportunity

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by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Jul 15, 2008
Opportunity has begun work on the much anticipated panorama of the layered promontory known as "Cape Verde" inside "Victoria Crater." The panorama will take several Martian days, or sols, to complete and will be made up of a mosaic of panoramic-camera images. The Cape Verde panorama is expected to be spectacular, "one for the textbooks."

With each move closer to Cape Verde, power to Opportunity's solar arrays has decreased as more of the promontory obscures the sky. Currently, Opportunity is about 7 meters (20 feet) from the Cape Verde cliff face.

The rover's next short advance toward the cliff will tilt its solar panels away from the Sun, limiting the amount of solar energy even more.

Rover drivers will take great care to ensure that Opportunity stays out of the shadow cast by Cape Verde, which currently extends approximately 3 meters (about 10 feet) from the cliff face. Even with all these constraints, the team is confident Opportunity will have enough power to finish the Cape Verde panorama.

The winter solstice occurred during sols 1570-1571 (June 24-25, 2008). This is the point at which the arc that the Sun traces across the sky reaches its most northerly point. Because Opportunity is south of the equator, the arc that the Sun traces now will move gradually to the south and higher in the sky. In coming months, this will result in more solar power for Opportunity.

Next week, Opportunity is expected to complete the Cape Verde panorama, then roll slightly forward to a point only a few meters away from the cliff face to take additional high-resolution images of the nearest portion of the cliff face.

Opportunity is healthy and all subsystems are performing as expected. Solar energy is around 367 watt-hours (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for one hour). As of sol 1572 (June 26, 2008), tau, a measurement of sun-blocking dust suspended in the atmosphere, was 0.409. The dust factor, the proportion of sunlight penetrating the coating of dust on the solar arrays, was 0.771.

In addition to receiving morning, direct-from-Earth instructions via the rover's high-gain antenna, sending evening UHF data to NASA's Odyssey orbiter for transmission to Earth, measuring atmospheric dust with the panoramic camera, surveying the sky for clouds with the navigation camera, and monitoring dust accumulation on the rover mast, Opportunity completed the following activities:

Sol 1566 (June 19, 2008): Opportunity drove 3.52 meters (11.6 feet) closer to Cape Verde and acquired post-drive images of the surrounding terrain with the navigation and panoramic cameras.

Sol 1567: Opportunity approached Cape Verde another 1.54 meters (5.05 feet), to a position roughly 7 meters (20 feet) away from the cliff face. After the drive, the rover took images of its new locale with the navigation and panoramic cameras.

Sol 1568: Opportunity recharged the battery. Before sending data to Odyssey, Opportunity surveyed the sky at low Sun with the panoramic camera. The rover took images of Cape Verde's shadow with the navigation camera.

Sol 1569: Opportunity recharged the battery and surveyed the sky at high Sun with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1570: Opportunity recharged the battery and completed 10 pointings of the panoramic camera at Cape Verde. The rover acquired a mosaic of panoramic-camera images of the atmosphere in search of dust.

Sol 1571: In the morning, Opportunity surveyed the horizon with the panoramic camera and completed 20 pointings of the panoramic camera at Cape Verde.

Sol 1572: Opportunity completed 14 pointings of the panoramic camera at Cape Verde.

Sol 1573 (June 26, 2008): In the morning, Opportunity took thumbnail images of the sky with the panoramic camera. The rover completed 14 pointings of the panoramic camera at Cape Verde.

Odometry: As of sol 1565 (June 18, 2008), Opportunity's total odometry was 11,723.94 meters (7.28 miles). Related Links
Mars Rovers at JPL
Mars Rovers at Cornell
Mars News and Information at
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Martian Spirit In A Better Mood As Battery Power Rises
Pasadena CA (JPL) Jul 15, 2008
Spirit's battery is recharging nicely now that rover planners have reduced the frequency of communications to and from the rover during the darkest days of Martian winter. Most measures of battery health are showing an increase of about 2 amp-hours in the battery state of charge (an amp-hour is equivalent to the amount of charge flowing for one hour from a current of 1 amp).

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