Space Robotics

Bored Mars Robot Turns to Star Gazing

Posted 29 Jun 2009 at 19:24 UTC by steve Share This

For those who haven't kept up with the NASA Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, here's the situation. Both rovers are still going but dust accumulations on the solar panels have limited their power. To make matters worse, Spirit became stuck on the side of a sand dune. NASA engineers are making elaborate efforts to free the rover, including creating an exact simulation of the Martial soil. In the meantime, a freak wind gust has purged most of the dust from the robot's solar panels, giving it more power than it's had in years. With all that extra power and no where to go, scientists decided to try some astronomical observations. The first result is shown above, a view of the night sky from sol 1943 (June 22 Earth time). Most of what you see are not stars, just hot pixels. The bright streak on the left is Canopus. To eliminate the noise and make the stars stand out, engineers plan to combine multiple exposures on future attempts. They also hope to capture images of Earth and Venus in the twilight sky. For more see the detailed story by Nancy Atkinson in Universe Today. I've included a few other recent photos from Spirit after the break. For even more images visit the Spirit raw image repository for over 100,000 photos from the Mars rover.

A panorama of the area where Spirit is stuck

False color image of the sand in which the rover is stuck

Panorama taken with the microscopic camera on the soil sampler arm showing the underbelly of the stuck robot.

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