Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Rewarding rock

Wow! My commands to Spirit to use her APXS and Moessbauer instruments on the rock last week apparently were the right ones and got through with no problems (sigh of relief here) and good thing too, because the rock is awesome! Obviously I can't post many details here, but I think I can say that it's probably some combination of a volcanic rock and Martian weathering, like many rocks we've seen, but in a weird and new and very interesting way. You might hear about it at LPSC next week.

LPSC is our big planetary science conference, held annually near the Johnson Space Center in Houston. It started as the Lunar Science Conference back in the day, then expanded to become the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. For the last couple of years it might as well have been the Martian and Other Planetary Science Conference. There's at least one Mars session every slot, and sometimes Mars goes head-to-head with itself. I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone has been up to!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Another press release

I was excited to write the press release for our first images of Home Plate a couple of weeks ago, check it out here.

Investigating Home Plate

Spirit has spent the last couple of weeks on her Home Plate campaign. Since we arrived, we've seen layering in the rocks and some chmical evidence that might point to Home Plate being volcanic in origin, which is really interesting. No rover or lander has been to a volcanic center on Mars before! So we're taking the time here to get as many in situ analyses as we can plus a whole host of Pancam images and miniTES work. This week, I served as APXS/Moessbauer uplink lead, which meant that I determined what the rover needed to run the APXS and MB instruments on Spirit at the times we wanted it to. Now that the rovers have been going so long, some of this is old hat and doesn't need to be reinvented every time we do an analysis, but there still needs to be someone to make sure everything is ok for the instruments!

For the first time since I joined the team, I've been way too busy for the last three weeks with other aspects of my job to really keep up on what one rover is doing, much less both of them. It's much more clear to me now why they need new, enthusiastic people to come in and put the time into the rovers. I was glad to have a specific job to do this week that forces me to look at the data coming in and participate in the process. It's easy to get overwhelmed after missing even a couple of days!