Friday, January 23, 2004  [!]
A postscript on the State of the Union address.

In a direct challenge to the Bush administration, which says its invasion of Iraq was justified by the presence of illicit arms, Kay told Reuters in a telephone interview he had concluded there were no Iraqi stockpiles to be found. "I don't think they existed," Kay said. "What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last (1991) Gulf War, and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the nineties," he said.

... Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said Kay's resignation and his statement to Reuters implicitly contradicted both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. "Kay is a very careful man who chooses his words with great precision. He is trying to set the record straight and be true to his profession," he said.

Also, USA Today on SOTU quotes Bush then provides reality check.

1/23/04; 5:57:20 PM | Iraq | Discuss | # | |

Since last week's announcement, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) has been getting bombarded by email.

There's also a Save the Hubble petition.

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) rushes to Hubble's defense

And a suggestion to hold a competiton to design a robot to swap out parts.

and from Bruce Garret , who works at STScI, about how they're going about their work post-announcement.

1/23/04; 12:37:11 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Overview Summary: Spirit keeps rebooting itself. Is sending limited data which we can work with, and we've assembled an anomaly team. There's no problem with spacecraft losing power, so we can work this one through. It's a complex problem, it'll take a while to get things figured out, don't expect a big change or news or return to functionality for a bit. Return to functionality will be a couple of weeks at best.

Based on telemetry of Spirit's landing, we have pictures and animations of what took place (cool!) and slight changes in the Entry Descent Landing (EDL) for Opportunity: deploy the parachute a little earlier.

Mars Global Surveyor Imaging lead scientist showed pictures of the Spirit landing site showing all the pieces of the spacecraft with annotations and bounce marks.

mgs image of spirit landing site:

[see all of today's press images ]

It's been in a processor reset loop since Wednesday. The thing that causes the reset is not always the same. The sequence on Wednesday morning to calibrate the Mini-TES. It didn't complete that. The team is analyzing the data it got (engineering). We can sustain the health of the spacecraft for a long time. [as far as power is concerned]

Anomaly team has been formed; separate from Opportunity team. They're synced with Spirit's day. They'll probably go on for several days to figure out what's going on. We will not be restoring functionality to Spirit for a coupla weeks at best.

Now. Entry, Descent and Landing report on Spirit's landing, based on analysis of the telemetry.

Wayne Lee: Opprotunity'll be the highest altitude Mars landing NASA has ever done. So, to prepare for that, detailed analysis of what happened with SPirit's landing. But this is first time that whole landign system has been tested, end to end. The Good news: Everything was just great with EDL. The descent rate limiter didn't perform as expected. In the Martian atmosphere there were 2 gusts of wind, one of which hit us at 40,000 feet. It's what you'd consider to be clear-air turbulence (cf. airplane). Also had some instances where the atmosphere was not as thick as we had hoped. Wind storms we reported around Christmas had the effect of warming the atmosphere. Bottom line: What are we going to do different with Opportunity? Not much, Deploy parachute at higher altitude. Atmosphere has variability, and it'll buy some insurance against the descent rate limiter.

Miguel San Martin: [explains how everything works with constant wind, and parachute and lander moving as one, when gust hits, the system oscillates, since there are multiple parts] The second gust of wind story: there was a gust of wind up to 50 mph in the last few seconds before landing. MER landing system is based on Pathfinder. Fixed a weakness to compensate for horizonal movement, involving a set of sensors and additional rockets to fire; it's a complex system.

Dr. Adam Steltzner: Flight telemetery: Bringing to a stop 23 feet above the surface of mars. We've been poring over this for the last few weeks in preparation for Opportunity's Landing. One of the differences is the Descent Rate Limiter. We had anticipated a deployment time of 6 seconds and the telemetry showed a deployment of 11 seconds. We concluded that the time is the increase in braking friction. After 7 month journey, and loss of volatiles in brake pad material. It made it perform better, improved braking forces the separation, which made it take longer. We are comfortable with the performance of the descnet rate limiter. We're now expecting a similar performance with Opportunity.

Mike .... head of imaging, Mars Global Surveyor: All the data were relayed through Mars Global Surveyor. Retained lock with Spirit .. As principal investigator with Mars Orbiter Camera. Got on last Monday an exciting picture... Shows Dimes image. A few seconds befoer touchdown. Bright dots in lower ... that's the hardware swe sent. Has bounce marks and rollout streak. The [name of person who estimated] was within 5 meters of the actual site; very good prediction on his part. Positive location I can tell you to wihtin half a meter, and positive orientation.

Pete Theisinger: I've been in this business a lot of years. This is phenomenal.

Q&A: All to Pete Theisinger, except one...

Q: What kind of data you got in those two instances where you got data? 10 bits per second, 120 bits per second..

A: We get a set of error messages, and we get engineering on principle subsystems. It gives us pointers for where to ask for more information. Tells us that the software is in X-band fault mode. We surmise it got there do to some hi-gain antenna not deploying. But as I pointed out to you, the flight software is not functioning normally, we've gotten two different behaviors; next time may be different. Quite a bit of info, but clearly not as much as we'd like.

Q: Translate all that to a ground effort to duplicate what you have seen. If Spirit were in the hospital, what would condition be (critical? guarded)

A: Critical, we are still critical. We don't know what's broke. We have a long way to go with the patient in intensive care. We're a long way from being done. Our ability to work around them. Do not expect a sea change in knowledge or theory in the next several days. Until we get to a root cause. We suspect two kinds of things that can get you into trouble. Hardware break as root cause set a chain of events that show up as software. Software is complex many modules talking to one another; it needs a long time in testing to allow problems to air. If there's something like that happening here, we'll need some time to work with that. Not yet gotten to the test bed with this, we need to set up a starting place [where the problem starts] to attempt to duplicate it in the test bed.

Q: [didn't get the question..]

A: We were doing a motor operation that wasn't completed when this came about...

Q: If it's mechanical

A: We don't know what we have is good. We have some more ... More testing to determine functionality. Wiht softare in its present state, we cannot reliably do that.

Q: you mentioned Spirit not shutting down at night; deplete batteries?

A: yes, will deplete. We attempted to shut down the vehicle. The batteries can go to a zero state of charge and be recharged.

It's like it's trying to reboot... tried to reset itself over 60 times. They've not tried

Q: Which motor was being exercised.

A: motor inside here (pan cam staff).. increasing the current, moving the motor. a sequence of events.. the last command of that sequence did not execute. [It's the first plaec they're going to look for problems]

Q; You role played as doctor, can you role play as parent, how you feel about it?

A:I don't view the situation that way. We have a serious problem... we can command it to talk to us, even tho we get limited information we get information we can work with. I expect we will get functionality out of this rover. Perfect function: not good, not work at all: low probability.

It's better for us if it doesn't go through low power, but we can work with it if it does.

Team has to bear in mind this may be systemic (w/ Opportunity), but this is probably a one-off.

Q to Mike of Mars Global Surveyor: Are you going to go look for other spacecraft?

A Surprised by how bright this was... so are going to attempt to get an off-nadir image of the Beagle area.

Q: personnel issues

A: Anomalies to engineers have a gravitational force. (laughter) They love to problem solve. So we're trying to keep them away unless they need to be there

Tomorrow's schedule: Briefing Noon pacific time tomorrow (both missions), 2pm mars program; 7:30 NASA TV Live coverage begins of Opportunity Landing (9:05 PST).

1/23/04; 11:22:42 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Captured using its combined camera and infrared spectrometer. Link is to ESA's site which has some images... the spectrometer image is cool: abstract fabric.

1/23/04; 10:11:44 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |

JPL press release dated 6:30 am this morning says that they had a 20-minute communication session with data. Very cool.

Here's a CNN story about the same thing. More news to come from a 10am press brifing.

1/23/04; 9:46:45 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Asa notes that Steve Squyres has an entry on his Rover mission news page (January 22 entry) at Cornell. The upshot: I've been in this business a long time and stuff like this happens on every mission, even the wildly successful ones.

I think that the so-far wildly successful Everything's-happening-perfectly has skewed perspectives a bit. We're expecting perfection to follow perfection. The mission designers don't, though. This is part of what happens in the space biz. To wit: Voyager2 lost its main receiver right out of the gate. Magellan had downtime due to computer problem. Galileo's main antenna never unfurled. (Doc M sez: Those guys on the Mars team have been just waiting for something like this to happen; things have been going *too* well.)

So the last word out of this morning's news briefing was that they were maybe communicating with the rover in fault mode. So what is fault mode? Here's an excerpt from a Reuters story

On Thursday morning, the Spirit team established contact with the rover's low-gain onboard antenna by switching to a radio frequency used when the rover goes into "fault" mode, Naderi said.

Spirit is able to decide independently to shut down if it experiences conditions, such as high temperatures or a power failure, that could damage it, Naderi said.

The rover is programmed to send a signals indicating that it had switched to fault mode and the type of problem was having, if necessary.

"This morning when we tried to communicate with the low gain (antenna) it worked," he said. "We communicated with it on a channel it would have been listening on if it thought it was in fault mode." [Read More]

This AP story has quotes from JPL director Charles Elachi and excerpts from a Letterman interview with Jim Garvin, NASA's head Mars Scientist.

"The thing is busted now isn't it?" Letterman asked.

"We did hear from it," Garvin said. "We've gotten a heartbeat, and rover is now in a special mode where it's protecting itself from the extremely cold environment on Mars and we're now communicating with it at very low rates to tell it how to wake itself back up." [Read More]

1/23/04; 12:50:32 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |