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Press Release Images: Spirit
Computer Modeling Supplements Dusty Testing
Orbital View of Spirit at 'Troy'

In this view from Martian orbit, the pale circular shape in the center is a low plateau called "Home Plate," about 80 meters (about 260 feet) across. The bright dot just to the left of Home Plate at the 9 o'clock position is NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit. North is toward the top.

The view is a portion of an image taken on June 13, 2009, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. At that date, Spirit had been embedded for more than a month in a patch of soft soil called "Troy." During the subsequent three months, Spirit studied the unusually layered soil at the site while engineers used test rovers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to assess possible maneuvers for getting Spirit away from Troy.

The site is at 14.6 degrees south latitude, 175.5 degrees east longitude. Home Plate is in the inner basin of the Columbia Hills range, inside Mars' Gusev Crater. Spirit has been exploring the Columbia Hills and nearby features since January 2004 in a mission originally scheduled to last for three months.

Full-frame images from this HiRISE observation, catalogued as ESP_013499_1650, are at The image was taken at 2:39 p.m. local Mars time, with the sun about 51 degrees above the horizon. The season was summer in the southern hemisphere of Mars.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Exploration Rovers for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter project and built the orbiter. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is operated by the University of Arizona, Tucson, and the instrument was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
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Checking Tilt of Lightweight Test Rover
Checking Tilt of Lightweight Test Rover

Tests of possible maneuvers for use by NASA's rover Spirit on Mars include use of this lightweight test rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. In this scene from Sept. 8, 2009, rover team member Walter Hoffman is checking for a change in the vehicle's tilt after an arc-backwards maneuver.

This test rover, called the Surface System Testbed Lite, weighs about the same on Earth as Spirit does on Mars. Unlike the primary test rover in use at JPL, called the Surface System Testbed, the lighter model does not carry science instruments or a robotic arm. An object that weighs 10 pounds on Earth weighs just 3.8 pounds on Mars, due to the smaller mass of Mars compared to Earth.

Computer modeling using results from both test rovers and data from Mars is helping the rover team plot a strategy to try getting Spirit out of a patch of soft Martian soil where Spirit has been embedded for more than four months.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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