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Robot Rovers on Mars
Spirit and Opportunity Wall Calendar 2007

Click on the thumbnail at left, or the picture for any of the months below for a larger view. The actual calendar is printed at 200dpi (2200 x 1700 pixels).

Notes:

  • CafePress.com doesn't let you put custom text outside the photo area. I did my best to identify each photo and source without intruding too much into the picture area; more detailed info is below.
     
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Robot Rovers on Mars: Spirit and Opportunity Wall Calendar 2006
Spirit Sol 182 2004.7.16

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell / Hartwell

January: Spirit and Opportunity Self-Portraits

PIA07371 (Spirit), PIA07372 (Opportunity): NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers  used their panoramic cameras to take the images combined into these mosaic views of the rovers.

The downward-looking view omits the mast on which the camera is mounted. It shows dust accumulation on Spirit's solar panels, but Opportunity's solar panels to be relatively dust-free. The images were taken through the camera's 600-, 530- and 480-nanometer filters during Spirit's 329th and 330th martian days, or sols (Dec. 7 and 8, 2004), and  Opportunity's 322nd and 323rd martian days, or sols (Dec. 19 and 20, 2004).

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell
 

February: Spirit's Postcard from "Tennessee Valley"

PIA04183: This "postcard" or mini-panorama was taken by NASA's Spirit rover on martian day, or sol, 582 (August 23, 2005), just as the rover finally completed its intrepid climb up Husband Hill. The summit appears to be a windswept plateau of scattered rocks, little sand dunes and small exposures of outcrop. The breathtaking view here is toward the north, looking down into the drifts and outcrops of the "Tennessee Valley," a region that Spirit was not able to visit during its climb to the top of the hill.

The approximate true-color postcard spans about 90 degrees and consists of images obtained by the rover's panoramic camera during 18 individual pointings. At each pointing, the rover used three of its panoramic filters (600, 530 and 480 nanometers).

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell
 

March: Endurance Crater's Dazzling Dunes

Opportunity , 11:22:07 Local Solar - PanCam Sol 207 2004.8.24 NASA/JPL/Cornell
False color photo illustration by Eric Hartwell

PIA06753: 'Endurance Crater's' Dazzling Dunes (false-color)

As NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity creeps farther into "Endurance Crater," the dune field on the crater floor appears even more dramatic. This false-color image taken by the rover's panoramic camera shows that the dune crests have accumulated more dust than the flanks of the dunes and the flat surfaces between them. Also evident is a "blue" tint on the flat surfaces as compared to the dune flanks. This results from the presence of the hematite-containing spherules ("blueberries") that accumulate on the flat surfaces.

Sinuous tendrils of sand less than 1 meter (3.3 feet) high extend from the main dune field toward the rover. Scientists hope to send the rover down to one of these tendrils in an effort to learn more about the characteristics of the dunes. Dunes are a common feature across the surface of Mars, and knowledge gleaned from investigating the Endurance dunes close-up may apply to similar dunes elsewhere.

Before the rover heads down to the dunes, rover drivers must first establish whether the slippery slope that leads to them is firm enough to ensure a successful drive back out of the crater. Otherwise, such hazards might make the dune field a true sand trap.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
False color phot o illustration by Eric Hartwell

 

April: Surfing the Dune Sea
PanCam images Sol 569 2005.8.30

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
Opportunity mosaic and false color photo illustration by Eric Hartwell

May: Spirit's Drive to Husband Hill

Part of PIA07334: Still Giving Thanks for Good Health. NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit took this full-circle panorama of the region near "Husband Hill" (the peak just to the left of center) over the Thanksgiving holiday, before ascending farther. Both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers are still going strong, more than a year after landing on Mars.

This 360-degree view combines 243 images taken by Spirit's panoramic camera over several martian days, or sols, from sol 318 (Nov. 24, 2004) to sol 325 (Dec. 2, 2004). It is an approximately true-color rendering generated from images taken through the camera's 750-, 530-, and 480-nanometer filters. The view is presented here in a cylindrical projection with geometric seam correction.

Spirit is now driving up the slope of Husband Hill along a path about one-quarter of the way from the left side of this mosaic.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
 

June: Spirit on top of 'Husband Hill'

PIA03610: Summit Panorama with Rover Deck. 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. This is the largest panorama yet acquired from either Spirit or Opportunity. The panoramic camera shot 653 separate images in 6 different filters, encompassing the rover's deck and the full 360 degrees of surface rocks and soils visible to the camera from this position. This is the first time the camera has been used to image the entire rover deck and visible surface from the same position. Stitching together of all the images took significant effort because of the large changes in resolution and parallax across the scene.

The image is an approximately true-color rendering using the 750-nanometer, 530-nanometer and 480-nanometer filters for the surface, and the 600-nanometer and 480-nanometer filters for the rover deck. Image-to-image seams have been eliminated from the sky portion of the mosaic to better simulate the vista a person standing on Mars would see.

This panorama provided the team's first view of the "Inner Basin" region (center of the image), including the enigmatic "Home Plate" feature seen from orbital data. After investigating the summit area, Spirit drove downhill to get to the Inner Basin region. Spirit arrived at the summit from the west, along the direction of the rover tracks seen in the middle right of the panorama. The peaks of "McCool Hill" and "Ramon Hill" can be seen on the horizon near the center of the panorama. The summit region itself is a broad, windswept plateau. Spirit spent more than a month exploring the summit region, measuring the chemistry and mineralogy of soils and rocky outcrops at the peak of Husband Hill for comparison with similar measurements obtained during the ascent.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell
 

July: Opportunity's Sand Trap

PIA07922: Opportunity's Sol 446 Position, with Relative Heights

This mosaic of navigation-camera frames from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, presented in a vertical projection, shows the rover's position after it dug itself to wheel-hub depth in a small dune during its 446th martian day, or sol (April 26, 2005). The colors are coding for information about relative elevations in the surrounding area. Red areas are the highest in the image, green areas the lowest. The difference between red and green is about 70 centimeters.

The elongated dune, or ripple, is about one-third of a meter tall and 2.5 meters wide.

Opportunity had completed nearly 40 meters of a planned 90-meter drive that sol when its wheels began slipping. The rover was driving backwards at the time. The rover team frequently alternates between backwards and forwards driving to keep wheel lubrication well distributed. The wheels kept rotating enough times to have covered the rest of the distance if they hadn't been slipping, but the rover eventually barely inched forward. After a turn at the end of the planned drive, Opportunity sensed that it had not turned properly and stopped moving.

The rover team spent more than a week designing and conducting tests under simulated Mars conditions on Earth before choosing the best way for Opportunity to drive out of the dune.  See also: PIA07216: Opportunity's 'Rub al Khali' Panorama

Image credit: NASA/JPL
 

August: Endurance Crater: "Burns Cliff"

PIA03241: Opportunity on 'Burns Cliff' (Simulated) .This synthetic image of NASA's Opportunity Mars Exploration Rover inside Endurance Crater was produced using "Virtual Presence in Space" technology. Developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., this technology combines visualization and image processing tools with Hollywood-style special effects. The image was created using a photorealistic model of the rover and an approximately full-color mosaic. The size of the rover in the image is approximately correct and was based on the size of the rover tracks in the mosaic.

Because this synthesis provides viewers with a sense of their own "virtual presence" (as if they were there themselves), such views can be useful to mission teams by enhancing perspective and a sense of scale.

Opportunity captured the underlying view of "Burns Cliff" after driving right to the base of this southeastern portion of the inner wall of "Endurance Crater." PIA07110 combines frames taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera between the rover's 287th and 294th martian days (Nov. 13 to 20, 2004). This is a composite of 46 different images, each acquired in seven different Pancam filters. It is an approximately true-color rendering generated from the panoramic camera's 750-nanometer, 530-nanometer and 430-nanometer filters. The mosaic spans more than 180 degrees side to side. Because of this wide-angle view, the cliff walls appear to bulge out toward the camera. In reality the walls form a gently curving, continuous surface.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell
 

September: Virtual Spirit on the Flank of Husband Hill
PIA03231: This synthetic image of the Spirit Mars Exploration Rover on the flank of "Husband Hill" was produced using "Virtual Presence in Space" technology. Developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., this technology combines visualization and image-processing tools with Hollywood-style special effects. The image was created using a photorealistic model of the rover and a false-color mosaic. The size of the rover in the image is approximately correct and was based on the size of the rover tracks in the mosaic. The mosaic was assembled from frames taken by the panoramic camera on the rover's 454th Martian day, or sol (April 13, 2005); see PIA07855).

Image and Text Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

October:

Opportunity Lays Tracks

"rippled flatland"

1N164774808EFF51Y2P1969L0M1
Opportunity Sol 412, 15:59:31 Local Solar - NavCam, Left

1N164775015EFF51Y2P1969L0M1
Opportunity Sol 412, 16:02:52 Local Solar - NavCam, Left

Navcam Images 2005.3.22 Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
Mosaic and false color photo illustration by Eric Hartwell

 

November: "Blueberry" Hunting in Endurance Crater
A Digital Opportunity Rover on Mars : Astronomy Picture of the Day 2005 December 14. 

A computer-generated image of Opportunity has been placed in context in an image it captured of Endurance Crater:

PIA06317: 'Endurance' Tells Story of Mars' History
This false-color image shows the area inside "Endurance Crater" that the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been examining. The rover is currently investigating the distinct layers of rock that make up this region. Each layer is defined by subtle color and texture variations and represents a separate chapter in Mars' history. The deeper the layer, the farther back in time the rocks were formed. Scientists are "reading" this history book by systematically studying each layer with the rover's scientific instruments. So far, data from the rover indicates that the top layers are sulfate-rich, like the rocks observed in "Eagle Crater." This image was taken on sol 134 (June 9, 2004) by Opportunity's panoramic camera with the 750-, 530- and 430-nanometer filters.

Explanation: If you could see one of the robot rovers currently rolling across Mars, what would it look like? To gain this perspective useful in planning explorations, the above synthetic image was produced digitally. Above, a digital model of the Opportunity rover was added to a real image of the inside of Endurance Crater on Mars taken earlier by Opportunity itself. The size of the six-wheeled robot was scaled to the size of the tracks that the Opportunity rover actually created. In actuality, both the Opportunity and Spirit rovers currently rolling across Mars each span about two meters and so are similar in size to a large rolling desk. Also visible in the image is dark soil, ancient light rock and numerous small gray pellets known as blueberries.

Credit: Mars Exploration Rover Mission, Cornell, JPL, NASA
Rover Model: D. Maas - Synthetic Image: Z. Gorjian, K. Kuramura, M. Stetson, E. De Jong.
 

December: A Moment Frozen in Time

PIA03232: Special-Effects Spirit Silhouetted on "Jibsheet"

This synthetic image of the Spirit Mars Exploration Rover on top of a rock called "Jibsheet" was produced using "Virtual Presence in Space" technology. Developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., this technology combines visualization and image-processing tools with Hollywood-style special effects. The image was created using a photorealistic model of the rover and a false-color mosaic. The size of the rover in the image is approximately correct and was based on the size of the rover tracks in the mosaic. The mosaic was assembled from frames taken by the panoramic camera on the rover's 489th Martian day, or sol (May 19, 2005); see PIA07997.

Because this synthesis provides viewers with a sense of their own "virtual presence" (as if they were there themselves), such views can be useful to mission teams in planning exploration by enhancing perspective and a sense of scale.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell
 

About the Mars Exploration Rovers
The names for the  Mars Exploration Rovers - Spirit and Opportunity - were selected from nearly 10,000 entries in a contest sponsored by NASA, the Lego Company, and the Planetary Society. 9-year-old Sofi Collis, in the winning essay, wrote, "In America, I can make all my dreams come true. Thank you for the 'Spirit' and the 'Opportunity.'"

The two identical rovers were originally thought to be able to trek up to 100 meters a day ("sol") across the martian surface, but on March 31, 2005 Opportunity traveled a distance of 220 metersin a single day. This is farther than the 1997 Mars Pathfinder rover Sojourner''s travel throughout its entire mission. Each rover carries a sophisticated set of instruments the Athena Science Payload that has allowed it to search for evidence of liquid water in the planet's past.

On June 10, 2003, the first Mars Exploration Rover (MER) spacecraft Spirit was launched on a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. After a seven month flight, it entered the martian atmosphere in January 3, 2004. The second lander and rover, Opportunity, followed on January 24.

The rovers each had a spectacular landing, similar to that of the Pathfinder spacecraft. After entering the atmosphere, the rovers deployed their parachutes and airbags, hitting the surface with enough force to bounce back up a hundred feet in the martian air. After finally settling down, the lander petals opened to reveal the rovers folded inside like origami. The rovers had to unfold themselves carefully, deploying their camera masts, antennae, wheels, and solar arrays.

The landing portion of the mission featured a design that is dramatically different from that of Mars Pathfinder. Where Pathfinder had a lander and the small Sojourner rover, each MER spacecraft carried just a large, long-range rover. The rover has a mass of nearly 180 kilograms (about 380 pounds).

Each rover can take a 360-degree visible color and infrared image panorama. Athena scientists can choose rock and soil targets and command the rovers to explore their surroundings.

The landers have long since been left behind, as both Spirit and Opportunity have searched out enticing clues in the soil.

When a rover reaches a target, its multi-jointed arm deploys and the target is examined with a microscope and two spectrometers. The "RAT" (Rock Abrasion Tool) is used to expose fresh rock surfaces for study. Images and spectra of interesting rocks and soils are taken daily.

It was originally believed that the rovers would only have the solar power capability to last for around 90 sols, or the early summer of 2004, but regular "cleaning events" and careful maneuvering have allowed them to continue for more than a martian year (670 sols).

Image and Text Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
 

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