Friday, July 31, 2009

NASA’s Dr. Joy Crisp holds topic for our Benefit

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Foremost we want to thank Dr. Joy Crisp a geologist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif and NASA/JPL for the beautiful presentation to answer all our inquiries and comments of the Rover Topics & Experiments Articles we in BPE have been accumulating over time about Opportunity’s and Spirit’s mission and welfare on Mars.

Dr. Joy Crisp began her topic with the overall mission for both the rovers and that is to find evidence of water. With varied slides of images and graphs Dr. Crisp explained the makeup of varied rocks and their components of where Spirit as well as Opportunity had detected water present in the past as well as scenic images where Spirit and Opportunity had ventured since January 2004 to date.

Once the primary mission’s status had been explained Dr. Crisp went on to talk about the technical workings of both Rovers. As we are all aware Spirit had always been the problem child, the mischievous teenager, loved nevertheless. Spirit’s 15 drilling expeditions to examine specified rocks but because her RAT had been damaged she will no longer be taking the chance to do any further drilling because it could damage her arm which in turn could then endanger her entire balance of the rover itself. Also how the dust devils video was established with several images captured by Spirit was explained and shown.Once having gotten the details of the mission to Mars out of the way and the explanations of Spirit’s situation Dr. Joy finally explained the long awaited for details of Opportunity’s journey and why did she end up straddling (akimbo) the sand dune in the first place.Isn’t it always like that regardless what news or story book you read? You know the plot thickens and you know it’s somewhere in the end of the book, but it’s nevertheless always at the end. So I too will keep you waiting so be patient along with me.

Opportunity did 22 drills (RAT) and still will be able to do more because the rocks Opportunity had been drilling were much softer in contrast to the hard rocks Spirit had been drilling. Opportunity’s never forgotten adventure into the Endurance Crater and it was a ‘cross your fingers’ episode of several months, if Opportunity would find her way back out.The slides were showing just as we had been showing in our articles the cliffs Opportunity had to deal with going into the crater as well as the parallel images of what we had in our articles of the exit route that at first didn’t work for Opportunity and then finally her exit route which successfully led her out of the crater and right into another breath holding adventure.

What were you thinking?’ was my questioned article of April 28th when Opportunity had found herself belly deep in the sand dunes. The warning images were there several SOLS previously. Dr Joy Crisp replied to that dilemma that Opportunity was driving very well by herself so they put her on hazard mode (to judge her own route of where it is safe and where it isn’t safe to continue driving). Opportunity kept sending data back to NASA that she was doing fine and moving forward, until finally someone at NASA mentioned but the images seem to remain always in the same place. The reason for this is because Opportunity’s wheels kept free turning and as far as Opportunity was concerned she felt she was moving along very nicely, even quickly, just she wasn’t going anywhere. A little side comment by Dr. Joy in regards to my comment and cartoon about driving Opportunity too fast, she said that they love to drive Opportunity ‘With the Petal to the metal WEEEEE!!!’ but they will drive ‘SLOW’ from now on. Also my inquiry as to would it be wise to continue forward since there is nothing but more of those high dunes ahead. Perhaps it would be wiser to go back where she had come from, Dr. Joy showed a slide of where the intended route for Opportunity is. More of those high dunes but NASA will allow Opportunity to learn how to drive over those dunes ‘slowly’ this time with a vigilant eye from NASA of course.

I would like to mention that the Rover team is in fact really doing their best taking into consideration of the terrain completely unknown to what is ahead for the rovers. And, of course lets not forget that days are shorter by several minutes every day on Mars, which means the team reset their clocks on a daily basis by approximately 20 minutes earlier daily. I’m sure their body clock is completely out of synch keeping synchronized with the rover’s activities. Their diet has also taken a toll, instead of the proper nutrition on the already sleep starved system they are going for sugar snacks, lots of coffee, ice-cream and pizzas intermittently keeping pace with both rovers. What NASA should have on staff is a dietician and a cook to supply proper meals for the team not just for our rovers we are following but soon the Phoenix Lander will examine Mars’ ecological conditions. Then anytime in 2009-2011 another rover will be sent to Mars with a mini chemical lab in it’s belly as well as a ‘zapper’ (a laser device to read the terrains composition from a distance) plus of course other tools which we will find out what they are as that rover gets assembled.
Now that Opportunity is free with some help from her earth-sister-rover, her next destination is to continue forward through the dark high dunes, slowly of course, to get to a very light coloured area ahead a place called ( Victoria) where NASA is hoping to find a hard surface with more rocks of different components to examine.

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