Spirit prepares for several days of observations
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
PASADENA, Calif. -- The Spirit rover took a weekend spin on Mars that doubled the distance on the six-wheeled vehicle's odometer, NASA said Monday. The slow, nearly 10-foot drive took Spirit 30 minutes, including repeated pauses to allow the rover to snap pictures. The drive was the first forward movement of the rover since it rolled off its lander and onto the Martian surface Thursday. "We went for a little Sunday drive," mission manager Mark Adler said at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Spirit ended up parked in front of a football-size rock scientists have dubbed "Adirondack." It lies a foot from Spirit, within easy reach of its robotic arm. Before halting, the rover wiggled its wheels into the silty soil to anchor itself in advance of several days' worth of science observations scheduled to begin today.
Spirit is supposed to reach out its arm and examine the 14-by-8-inch rock with its microscopic imager and two spectrometers, which can detail the minerals and elements that make up the rock. Spirit should then drill into the rock, perhaps as early as Wednesday, to reveal its interior.
Scientists believe it is made of a volcanic rock called basalt.
"You can think of it as a time capsule that contains a history of its formation," said Dave Des Marais, a member of the mission science team.
Spirit's twin, Opportunity, remains on track to land on Mars on Saturday. NASA sent Opportunity to a spot halfway around the planet from Spirit's Jan. 3 landing site.
"Everything is looking good for the upcoming landing," Adler said.
NASA sent the two rovers to prospect for geologic evidence Mars once was a warmer, wetter world capable of supporting life.
On the Net: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html