Monday, January 26, 2004  [!]
From the looks of it, looking around the lander to ensure that all's okay, calibration of camera, and pointing at the sun for high gain antenna deployment.

1/26/04; 6:29:49 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Thanks to Technorati , I saw that someone refers to me as a JPL insider. Nope. Well, okay, maybe if you count the fact that I hang around with one. But really, I've been on the lab two--count 'em two--times during public days in the last two years. Oh, a third time--to attend an awards ceremony. That's dubious insider-dom. Periapsis is the weblog of a real JPL insider, Robby Stephenson (who's working on a future Mars mission). He posts some "around work" fotos--banners, signage, and sites for photo ops for all the press crawling about the place. (no fotos of mission control, tho.)

1/26/04; 5:53:01 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Its top story: NASA is not altering Mars Colors (I got an email asking me if I was following the altering Mars Color theory/conspiracy. No, I haven't been. Apparently camera calibration seems different. Is white white? Is the sky reddish? or blue?). Without checking into anything, I thought-- well there's that lovely calibration target that Bill Nye got all jazzed over and made into a sundial and a world-wide keep-time-on-Mars phenom. Surely they're using that to make sure that red is red, blue is blue, and so forth. But I checked no further.

I just saw a link from Jason Levine, who is doing some interesting Photoshop color reconstructions from grayscale images based on the page this post refers to.

So what'll you find if you click the link above? An email from Jim Bell of Cornell, the lead imaging scientist on the mission (who spoke at this morning's press briefing, too, btw). And lots of info about how digital cameras work, about color spaces, calibration targets, and so forth. Tons of links and references. Far more info than you ever wanted to know about how the cameras were calibrated. And the conclusion that no image is 100% perfect (digital images are that way), but that NASA is doing an extremely close approximation of color from Mars. Upshot: You can trust them.

1/26/04; 3:54:46 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

This is a post in the MainlyMartian weblog that I just found thanks to Adot's Notblog*.

The latest round of attempted communications turned up nothing, and there is no plausible scenario in which the spacecraft has not yet transmitted anything at a time when we've been listening but is still capable of transmitting something. There is a last chance involving a reboot procedure, but it's clear that almost no hope at all is held out for it. On February sixth, it appears, the decision to draw a line under the mission. But as Pillinger says, everyone involved is now "looking to the future" -- specifically, the possibility of reflying the Beagle payload in some way or other in 2007.

1/26/04; 1:11:31 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Astrobiology Magazine has a story so far. The DIMES images taken as Opportunity descended to the surface provide a clue, and they, together with images of the Martian surface taken by the MOC --the camera on Mars Global Surveyor orbiting the planet--help to focus in on the lander's precise location. Opportunity is at the right end of landing ellipse. But it'll take some days yet to confirm. Go to the article to see the ellipse pix.

UPDATE: And then again, maybe not. Asa of Adot's Notblog* posted a comment pointing to an image suggesting a different landing site.

1/26/04; 1:06:35 PM | Space | Discuss (1 response) | # | |

This is a partial summary of the briefing.

Spirit update, from Mission Manager Jennifer Trosper: She went through a whole review of the problem with Spirit from when it showed up until now. File storage on Spirit is on flash memory (similar to flash memory in digital camera). The file system is in flash, but the amount of space in dynamic RAM needed to manage the file system is larger than we anticipated.

Right now they're not accessing flash, and writing their files to RAM (which is good because they don't need RAM to manage files on flash memory), and bypassing flash they're not experiencing the problems. She outlined a plan for further testing the memory corruption/file corruption issue, and as that plays out, they will be deleting files from flash memory. The impression I got from this is that it'd take a couple of days to reach that point. (could be wrong, may be a first-this-then-that). They're going to be overloading the flash memory on a rover in the testbed to try to replicate the problem.

[sorry, missed portions of this due to Pasadena's Learning Channel busting in on the NASA channel. Hooray for CSPAN2, tho it took a while to find it. In any case, check out Adot's Notblog* for his always-excellent transcription]

There were briefings on Science, Spirit, Opportunity, and the cameras.

(Jim Bell, lead imaging scientist gave props to all the camera making teams; said there are 20 cameras on mars, er, 18, as two are on each of the bottom of the landers, having done their jobs on descent. He said that when you see the credits NASA/JPL/CORNELL it's a nod to tons of people who've gone beyond the call of duty building and calibrating the cameras. There are more cameras, of course, duplicates earth-side, on duplicate testbed rovers and so forth. He just mentioned that they're 20-megapixel cameras. woah.)

Steve Squyres just answered a question whether he was worried about losing science data on Spirit. No. The mission was geared for 90 days; the warranty expires on Spirit after Sol 90, but that doesn't mean that the wheels fall off the rover on Sol 91. In fact for power and thermal systems and all, the rover has been performing better than acceptable. So there's every expectation that the rovers will perform beyond 90 sols. Plus, margin was designed into the mission to have down days with no science, specifically 1 in 3 days where they get no science data at all; they built margin into the mission design exactly because problems crop up when you send a spacecraft to Mars. So until this happened, they were 17 for 17 sols of good data. Even if this means a standdown of 30 days, that's still within acceptable according to their plan.

[on a separate note, I see that someone from Astrobiology Magazine is there and asking questions; check out their Mars Mission coverage]

1/26/04; 9:53:09 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Postcard from Opportunity Sol 1:

merb sol1 postcard 520wide:

NASA/JPL/Cornell

1/26/04; 9:23:04 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |