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Free Spirit - Rover Extraction Tests Begin

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Tue Jul 7, 2009 3:55 pm
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(NASA) – After commanding five of a test rover’s six wheels to drive forward, rover driver Paolo Bellutta (left) measures how much the rover moved sideways, downslope, during the maneuver. Rover mission manager Alfonso Herrera (standing) checks computer entry of the data.

This testing on July 6, 2009, was part of work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., to determine the best maneuvers for NASA’s Mars Explortaion Rover Spirit to use for getting out of a patch of soft soil where it is embedded on Mars. One of Spirit’s six wheels, the right-front one, has not been operable since early 2006. The test setup simulates Spirit’s challenging situation.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Using a test rover in a sandbox at JPL with special soil simulating Spirit’s predicament on Mars, engineers are assessing possible maneuvers for getting Spirit out and onto firmer ground. They began on Monday, July 6, with the simplest maneuver on their list of options: driving forward with all five operable wheels. In the first set of tests, the wheels turned enough to cover tens of meters, or yards, if there had been no slippage. The test rover moved slightly forward and sideways downslope. Weeks of further testing and analysis of results are expected before engineers identify the best moves to command Spirit to make.

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