(note fertility dance by Mars Exploration Rover Team members)
NASA's Spirit Rover is checking out its neighborhood on Mars, but so far no babes:
- NASA's Spirit Rover is starting to examine its new surroundings, revealing a vast flatland well suited to the robot's unprecedented mobility and scientific toolkit.
"Spirit has told us that it is healthy," Jennifer Trosper of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., said today. Trosper is Spirit mission manager for operations on Mars' surface. The rover remains perched on its lander platform, and the next nine days or more will be spent preparing for egress, or rolling off, onto the martian surface.
With only two degrees of tilt, with the deck toward the front an average of only about 37 centimeters (15 inches) off the ground, and with apparently no large rocks blocking the way, the lander is in good position for egress. "The egress path we're working toward is straight ahead," Trosper said.
The rover's initial images excited scientists about the prospects of exploring the region after the roll-off.
"My hat is off to the navigation team because they did a fantastic job of getting us right where we wanted to be," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the science payload. By correlating images taken by Spirit with earlier images from spacecraft orbiting Mars, the mission team has determined that the rover appears to be in a region marked with numerous swaths where dust devils have removed brighter dust and left darker gravel behind.
"This is our new neighborhood," Squyres said. "We hit the sweet spot. We wanted someplace where the wind had cleared off the rocks for us. We've landed in a place that's so thick with dust devil tracks that a lot of the dust has been blown away."