Awesome -- Again
New Color Pic From Mars From Second Martian Rover Shows "Bizarre, Alien Landscape"
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
|(January 25, 2004) -- LBReport.com posts the first color photo from the second Mars Rover "Opportunity," which landed successfully on the opposite side of the red planet from the first Rover "Spirit" shortly after 9 p.m. PST Jan. 24.
As described on the Jet Propulsion Lab-NASA web site, the photo reveals "a surreal, dark landscape unlike any ever seen before on Mars." [We have lightened the picture to reveal detail.]
"Opportunity has touched down in a bizarre, alien landscape," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the science instruments on Opportunity and its twin, Spirit. "I'm flabbergasted. I'm astonished. I'm blown away."
The terrain has the first accessible bedrock outcropping ever seen on Mars. The landing site is called Meridiani Planum, a plain like area within an Oklahoma-sized outcropping of gray hematite, a mineral that -- on Earth -- usually forms in the presence of water.
Scientists plan to use Opportunity's research instruments to determine if the gray hematite layer comes from sediments of a long-gone ocean, from volcanic deposits altered by hot water or from other ancient environmental conditions.
Shortly before NASA's Opportunity rover reached Mars, engineers found a way to communicate reliably with its twin, Spirit...which has experienced computer difficulties.
Engineers are working to get Spirit's computer out of a cycle of rebooting many times a day. Spirit's responses to commands sent Jan. 24 confirmed a theory the problem is related to the rover's two "flash" memories or software controlling those memories.
"The rover has been upgraded from critical to serious," said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager Peter Theisinger at JPL...and predicted significant work is ahead for restoring Spirit.
Spirit has 256 megabytes of flash memory, a type commonly used on digital cameras to hold data when the power is off. Engineers confirmed Spirit's recent symptoms are related to the flash memory, when they commanded the rover to boot up and use random-access memory instead of flash memory. The rover obeyed commands about communicating and going into sleep mode. Spirit communicated successfully at 120 bits per second for nearly an hour.
The work on restoring Spirit is not expected to slow the steps in getting Opportunity ready to roll off its lander platform. For Spirit, those steps took 12 days. The rovers' main task is to explore landing sites for evidence in the rocks and soil to determine if past environments were watery and possibly suitable for sustaining life.
JPL, a division of the Cal Tech in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington.
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