The Mars Report – A Decade of Spirit on Mars


Spirit Selfie Still Shining After All This Time

Spirit Selfie Still Shining After All This Time

(Spirit Selfie Still Shining After All This Time)

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Welcome back My Dear Readers to The Other Shoe. Today I am pleased to present a short review of a decade of images from the Mars rover, Spirit. Launched in July of 2003 and landing on the surface of Mars January 2004, both the Opportunity and Spirit rovers have produced images and science, consistently, for the past ten years. NASA/JPL have proved, beyond any doubt, that they can design, build, launch and guide scientific platforms like no other country on earth.

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Today, I am going to continue this series with the Spirit rover. The Spirit rover launched on June 10th, 2003 from Cape Canaveral. Spirit landed, on the Martian surface, on January 4th, 2004. Spirit finally succumbed to a winterin 2010. Spirit’s back wheels were caught in sand, leaving Spirit in a bad position to weather the winter. Granted, today the rover Curiosity overshadows these twin rovers… even here at The Other Shoe.

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Let me take us all the way back to the day Spirit landed in the Gusev crater, a 170 km diameter crater which formed three to four billion years ago. Below is an image, taken by Spirit, directly after leaving the ‘nest’. Unlike Curiosity, Opportunity and Spirit landed in huge ‘air bag’ landing devices. Once in the Martian atmosphere the rover package was jettisoned and air bags, surrounding the rover(s), deployed. They rolled until all the inertia was dissipated. Once halted, the air bags deflated and the rovers rolled out on to the Martian surface. Directly below is the ‘nest’ of air bags left behind by the Martian rover Spirit.

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Spirit’s Empty Nest

Spirit’s Empty Nest

(Spirit’s Empty Nest)

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Spirit began seeing dust devil activity around the beginning of Mars’ spring season. Activity increased as spring continued, but fell off again for about two weeks during a dust storm. As the dust storm faded away, dust devil activity came back. In the mid-afternoons as the summer solstice approached, dust devils were a very common occurrence on the floor of Gusev crater. Directly below is a still image of dust devils taken by Spirit’s main camera.

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Spirit Image Dust Devil in Gusev

Spirit Image Dust Devil in Gusev

(Spirit Image Dust Devil in Gusev)

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The nest image, directly below, is a moving GIF image… a kind of video of dust devils caught by Spirit in the Gusev crater March 2005.

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Spirit Dust Devil’s Enhanced Video

Spirit Dust Devil’s Enhanced Video

(Spirit Dust Devil’s Enhanced Video)

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For our next image, Spirit acquired this high-resolution view of intricately layered exposures of rock while parked on the northwest edge of the bright, semi-circular feature known as “Home Plate.” Spirit acquired this false-color image at 11:48 local true solar time on Mars on the rover’s 746th Martian day, or sol (Feb. 26, 2006), after using the rock abrasion tool to brush the surfaces of rock targets informally named “Stars” (left) and “Crawfords” (right).

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Spirit Rock Outcrop at 'Home Plate'

Spirit Rock Outcrop at ‘Home Plate’

(Spirit Rock Outcrop at ‘Home Plate’)

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Our next image is a larger view of the area included in the image above. Taken by Spirit’s Mast-camera, it is also a ‘false-color’ image. Showing the colors of the rocks and land as they would appear in ‘Earth Light’. This image was used, by NASA/JPL, to pick the location to use the abrasion tool on this rock face.

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Spirit Contemplating Rock Layers

Spirit Contemplating Rock Layers

(Spirit Contemplating Rock Layers)

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The following image, directly below, was (when taken) the “single largest yet acquired by either Opportunity of Spirit” and that is the reason I have included it in today’s review. The panoramic camera on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit took the hundreds of images combined into this 360-degree view, the “Husband Hill Summit” panorama. The images were acquired on Spirit’s sols 583 to 586 (Aug. 24 to 27, 2005), shortly after the rover reached the crest of “Husband Hill” inside Mars’ Gusev Crater.

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Spirit Summit Panorama with Rover Deck

Spirit Summit Panorama with Rover Deck

(Spirit Summit Panorama with Rover Deck)

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Our next image is of a rock called “Clovis,” the rock abrasion tool on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit cut a 9-millimeter (0.35-inch) hole during the rover’s 216th Martian day, or sol (Aug. 11, 2004). The hole is the deepest drilled in a rock on Mars so far. This false-color view was made from images taken by Spirit’s panoramic camera on sol 226 (Aug. 21, 2004) at around 12:50 p.m. local true solar time — early afternoon in Gusev Crater on Mars. To the right is a “brush flower” of circles produced by scrubbing the surface of the rock with the abrasion tool’s wire brush. Scientists used rover’s Moessbauer spectrometer and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer to look for iron-bearing minerals and determine the elemental chemical composition of the rock. This composite combines images taken with the camera’s 750-, 530-, and 430-nanometer filters. The grayish-blue hue in this image suggests that the interior of the rock contains iron minerals that are less oxidized than minerals on the surface. The diameter of the hole cut into the rock is 4.5 centimeters (1.8 inches).

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Spirit Deep Hole in 'Clovis'

Spirit Deep Hole in ‘Clovis’

(Spirit Deep Hole in ‘Clovis’)

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Our final image, for this review of the (near) decade of Spirit’s life on the Martian surface is of Columbia Hills as it begins it approach. It was on this very approach that, unfortunately, Spirit encountered a “sandy patch” area and NASA/JPL lost control of the rear wheels. This is where Spirit remains, to this day, with its rear wheels caught in a large patch of sandy material. Spirit was not prepared for the oncoming winter weather, positioned poorly, the electronic devices and controls did not survive the winter.

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Spirit Columbia Hills Approaching the Hills

Spirit Columbia Hills Approaching the Hills

(Spirit Columbia Hills Approaching the Hills)

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That brings us to the end of this review of the life of the Martian Rover, Spirit. Lasting far longer than the originally planned ninety days, Spirit added significantly to the science and understanding of Mars and the Martian surface. It is my opinion that the rovers, Sprit and Opportunity, are real and substantial proof that America can be an international leader in space exploration. That, if given the proper financial support… and social support, there is no limit to what NASA/JPL and the America people can do in space.

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Thank you, My Dear Readers, for joining me these past two days for this review of the two hardest working and historic exploration rovers in the history of mankind. Be sure to keep watching and reading ‘The Mars Report’ as I continue to follow the Martian rover Curiosity as it increases our understanding of extra planetary environments, adds to the volumes of images, and makes more and more scientific discoveries. Mars holds more secrets than any of us can imagine, and may even hold materials… base elements that could be used for many and varied purposes. Even as the insulation material chip manufacturers desperately need to break the 4GHz speed limit in desktop processors.

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Spirit The Call of the Dark Rocks

Spirit The Call of the Dark Rocks

(Spirit The Call of the Dark Rocks)

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Adieu!

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Thank YOU!

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The Other Shoe's Daniel Hanning

The Other Shoe’s Daniel Hanning 2/2014

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About Daniel Hanning
I am a; writer, editor and publisher. I write, most often, articles about our space program, fun videos andpolitical works. My most recent additions are; A Week In Review, Sunday Funnies and The Adventures of Nadia. Along with The Mars Report and Lost in Space. ENJOY!

One Response to The Mars Report – A Decade of Spirit on Mars

  1. Pingback: A Week in Review – April 27th, 2014 | The Other Shoe

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