Starting today, NASA will try to free Spirit, the Mars rover which has been stuck for months on a sandpit on Mars. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tested a variety of methods for freeing Spirit, but the JPL is not optimistic that they will be able to free the rover. Constrained by the geographic of its location, NASA has decided that they have learned all they can from tests and it is time to see if Spirit can be freed. For more information, see CNET News.
Posted tagged ‘Jet Propulsion Laboratory’
On Sunday, July 19th, an amateur astronomer in Australia discovered the marks left by what is likely a new collision between Jupiter and an unknown object. After realizing what he observed, he contacted a number of professionals. Two of the people who learned of his discovery also work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. They had already scheduled time on NASA’s InfraRed Keck II telescope in Hawaii for Monday night. After observing the spot for hours, they were able to confirm that the spot was an impact. While they are unable to confirm the size of the impact, they believe it is approximately the size of Earth. Fore more information, see the New Scientist.
The robotic solar orbiter, Ulysses, a joint mission of NASA and the European Space Agency, will be officially shutdown tomorrow, June 30th. Launched from the space shuttle Discovery in October 1990, Ulysses has functioned long past the original five year mission. While Ulysses has provided significant information about the sun, it has now moved so far from Earth that its data transfer rate has slowed so much as to no longer be cost effective for NASA and ESA. For more information on Ulysses, see MSNBC.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is preparing a “sandbox” full of simulated Martian soil in order to test methods of escape for Spirit, the Mars rover that has been stuck since May. Engineers want to ensure that their escape methods will not simply make Spirit’s situation worse. So, the JPL engineers will test multiple variations of escape, searching for the one that will finally free Spirit. For more information on their plans and testing methods, see the New Scientist.
Yesterday, June 9th, NASA successfully brought the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter back on-line from the standby mode it entered on June 3rd. The Orbiter is designed to go into standby mode to help protect it from damage. When the Orbiter doesn’t know how to respond to a situation, in this case a reboot of its main computer, it is designed to shut down and await instructions from NASA. Engineers are currently exploring the likely reasons for the malfunction. For more information on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter malfunction, see space.com.
Spirit, one of the two Mars rovers, is stuck in loose dirt. A team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is working with a model of the rover here on earth trying to diagnose a solution. Team members are worried that Spirit could work itself further into the dirt, further complicating its extrication. Designed for a primary mission of 3 months, Spirit & its twin Opportunity have been collecting data from Mars since 2004.