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Mars Rover Spirit's Intelligence Is Increasing
Posted In: Mars Coverage  2/24/05

SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit's Intelligence Increasing - sol 394-402, February 24, 2005

Spirit is getting new software for increased brainpower, but the rover is not using it quite yet.

Sol-by-sol summaries:

On sol 394, Spirit drove to a safe spot for good communications with Earth during upload of new software. The rover team successfully loaded all of the new software modules on sol 395 and booted the spacecraft with the latest software on sol 397. At the end of sol 397, the rover team re-booted back into the old software. Opportunity (Spirit's sister) is running on the new software, and Spirit will start using it after the project team gets a chance to see the software's new capabilities in action.

On sol 398, Spirit continued climbing toward "Larry's Lookout" in the "Columbia Hills" with an 18-meter (59-foot) drive backward up the hill. During part of the drive, the rover slipped, and Spirit churned up some soil under the front right wheel. In the images taken after the drive, the rover team noticed some very bright spots in the soil.

On sol 399, Spirit placed the robotic arm down on the churned up soil and performed a quick reading of the soil's composition with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer. Spirit then stowed the robotic arm and continued the drive toward the summit. However, the attempted drive failed due to slippage, and Spirit ended up only churning up more soil. This turned out to be fortuitous because the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer reading the rover team received on sol 400 from the sol 399 integration showed interesting results. Because the team had only a quick alpha particle X-ray spectrometer reading the sol before, the rover team decided to dedicate sol 400 to doing a more extensive integration with the same instrument.

For sols 401 and 402, Spirit's instructions were to complete more observations of the soil at this location. Spirit changed tools to the Mössbauer spectrometer for collecting data with that instrument more than 12 hours each day. The plan actually ended in the early morning hours of sol 403. During the morning of sol 403, Spirit attempted to image Phobos (one of the moons of Mars) as it eclipsed the Sun. Sol 402 ended on Feb. 18, 2005.


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