Jun 30, 2009 | 2
The hobbled Spirit rover, stuck in a tricky patch of Martian soil, is whiling away the hours with a little stargazing. From its stationary post in an area known as Troy, the rover has been turning its cameras to the skies to act as an ad hoc observatory on Mars, as noted by Universe Today.
Planetary scientist Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, the member of the rover team who is leading the effort, tells ScientificAmerican.com that Spirit has been observing stars and planets for about two weeks.
But it is a different kind of observation than that on Earth. "Images of stars are useful not for the astronomy but for the atmospheric information," Lemmon says. "Astronomers on Earth use multiple observations to cancel out the Earth's atmospheric effects and leave information on the target. We cancel out the information on the target to learn about Mars's atmosphere."
Apr 14, 2009 | 8
Spirit, one of the twin Mars rovers that have patrolled the Red Planet since 2004, appears to have suffered another glitchy episode. The rover team is trying to figure out why Spirit rebooted itself at least twice over the weekend; in January the rover perplexed its handlers when it failed to respond to commands and did not record its activities for a spell.
As the rover bounced information to and from Earth, some of its communications were interrupted; Spirit appears to have rebooted while it was using an antenna that allows direct contact with Earth.
"While we don't have an explanation yet" for the glitches, Spirit appears to be fully powered and within its temperature bounds, project manager John Callas of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. "The rover is in a stable operations state called automode and taking care of itself. It could stay in this stable mode for some time if necessary while we diagnose the problem."
Jan 29, 2009 | 2
The Spirit rover, one of two twin explorers sent to Mars in 2004, suffered a bit of confusion over the weekend. The rover mysteriously did not respond to its driving commands last Sunday, although it acknowledged receiving them, and did not record its activities as it usually does. (Spirit and its partner, Opportunity, were originally tapped for three-month missions, but both continue to operate five years later.)
The memory glitch seems to be remedied, as Spirit properly recorded its activities Tuesday. And the rovers' project manager, John Callas of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement that Spirit is now "reporting good health and [is] responsive to commands from the ground."
Jul 22, 2008
NASA has coughed up $1.2 million for a navigation system that will help astronauts find their way around the lunar surface when they return in 2020. The Lunar Astronaut Spatial Orientation and Information System (LASOIS) is designed to function much the same way as a global positioning system (GPS). The major difference: the moon version will rely on signals from lunar beacons, stereo cameras, and orbital imaging sensors instead of from satellites (there are none drifting around the moon) to map coordinates. These signals will be picked up by sensors onboard roving lunar vehicles, robots traversing the moon's surface and sensors mounted on astronaut space suits.
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