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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 21:09 GMT
Rover sets Mars distance record
Spirit, Nasa
Spirit can navigate over yellow and green colored terrain, but not red.
The US space agency's robotic Mars explorer Spirit has broken a record for the distance travelled by a robot rover in one day on the Martian surface.

Spirit travelled nearly 21 metres (70 feet) across the rock-strewn surface of Gusev Crater, where it is looking for past or present signs of liquid water.

Scientists said Spirit's twin rover Opportunity had experienced slips during 50% of its drive on Tuesday.

This is thought to be due to loose soil at its Meridiani Planum landing site.

Spirit's drive was more than three times the longest distance covered in one day by Nasa's Sojourner rover, which landed on Mars in 1997.

Spirit drove "blind" for about half the distance, following a planned route to a stopping point.

For the second half of the trip, it drove to a second stopping point, executed a turn and then rolled onward before stopping.

Spirit creates a map of the terrain in front of it, dividing it into green, yellow and red areas based on how easy it perceives that terrain is to traverse.

The rover can navigate over yellow and green coloured terrain, but not red.

Command test

The trip, intended to test driving commands, was a success.

Over the weekend, Spirit drilled its first artificial hole in a rock - the football-sized Adirondack - and took readings from it using the science instruments on its robotic arm.

Before leaving Adirondack, Spirit took images and collected miniature thermal emission spectrometer (Mini-Tes) data from the hole it ground with its rock abrasion tool (Rat).

It will now investigate another rock called White Boat.

Later on in its mission, Spirit will investigate a large crater at its Gusev Crater landing site called Bonneville Crater.

On Tuesday morning engineers played Spirit's twin rover Opportunity a lighthearted wake-up call: the song Slip Sliding Away by Paul Simon.

Opportunity made it across four metres (12 feet) on its drive and is now poised to continue observing parts of the rocky outcrop that sticks out of the crater where it has landed.

It will begin close-up observation of the bedrock today (Tuesday).

The rover will drive up, down and inside the rim of the crater taking images of the outcrop as it goes, a procedure known as "scoot and shoot".


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