Six-wheeling on Mars: Spirit rover drives off lander
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: January 15, 2004


An artist's concept of Spirit driving off its lander. Credit: NASA/JPL
 
The command ordering the Spirit rover to roll off its lander and onto the surface of Mars was transmitted at 3:21:30 a.m. EST.

"Flight, I have alpha, alpha, charlie, tango, underscore, romeo, two-one, niner-six, decimal alpha, decimal zero, zero in the radiation cue," a controller informed flight director Chris Lewicki when the instructions were ready to go.

"OK, alpha, alpha, charlie, tango, underscore, romeo, two-one, niner-six, decimal alpha, decimal zero, zero," Lewicki confirmed. "This is our command (for) the most significant 3-meter drive in recorded history." The control team laughed. "That's a good readback, you're clear to radiate."

"On my mark," the controller replied. "Three, two, one, mark!"

And with that, coded instructions began racing toward Mars, more than 100 million miles away, where the Spirit lander sat patiently atop its lander, poised for roll off.

It would take an hour and a half for the rover to complete its slow move off the lander's northwest egress aid and onto the surface, to find the sun, reorient its high-gain antenna and radio telemetry back to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, confirming its initial foray.

As the waiting began, mission manager Jennifer Trosper cued up the theme song from the TV series "Rawhide" and the familiar refrain "rollin', rollin', rollin'" blared out in the flight control room."


The Spirit rover's view forward as it drives on the surface of Mars today. Credit: NASA/JPL See larger image here
 
It was the moment the engineers and scientists had been waiting for since Spirit bounced to a successful landing on Mars Jan. 3.

"This is a night that is extraordinarily rich in significance for all of us, certainly for those of us on the science team and I know for everybody here as well," principal investigator Steve Squyres told the team. "When I first presented this long-term (exploration) plan to the public a couple of days ago, I said it was rich in scientific potential. But I also said it was going to be a shared adventure unlike any other in human history. When I said that, what I meant for the press and the public was that it was an adventure we would share with the whole world.

"But on a much deeper and more personal level, it's an adventure that I'm just incredibly proud to share with the people in this room and this team. And so, when we see that picture (showing the lander in the background) and everybody starts getting all choked up and running around hugging people again, please forgive me. Thanks."

Finally, at 4:53 a.m., a controller called out: "We have carrier in lock," meaning NASA's Deep Space Network tracking antennas once again were receiving a signal from Spirit. Five minutes later, a controller reported telemetry confirmed that Spirit had, in fact, moved three meters, or about 9.8 feet from its starting point atop the lander.

"Sounds like it was a nice trip," Lewicki said. "All we need now are the pictures."

Then, two minutes later, the first grainy black-and-white thumbnail image from a rear-facing navigation camera came in, clearly showing the lander, perched atop its crumpled airbags, in the background. Spirit was finally on the surface of Mars and the flight team burst into cheers and applause. Squyres embraced Lewicki and science manager John Callas gave Trosper a bouquet of flowers.


Spirit's view looking back at the lander. Credit: NASA/JPL See larger image here
 
"That's a big relief!" said Rob Manning, the engineer who oversaw Spirit's entry, descent and landing 12 days ago. "We're on Mars. Spirit has landed."

Project manager Pete Theisinger held up a T-shirt with an image of the rover on one side, along with the words "My other car is on Mars!!!" Then someone cued up the song "Who Let The Dogs Out?"

A few minutes later, a higher resolution image came in, clearly showing Spirit's two back wheels and ruddy tire tracks leading back to the lander's egress aids. Martian soil could be seen clumped up on the rear left wheel as the team once again burst into cheers.

"Our wheels are finally dirty," Manning observed. "This is very exciting. What a relief."

Spaceflight Now Plus
Video coverage for subscribers only:
   VIDEO: FLIGHT DIRECTOR CHRIS LEWICKI GIVES OK FOR DRIVE QT
   VIDEO: MOMENT WHEN DRIVE ONTO SURFACE IS CONFIRMED QT
   VIDEO: CELEBRATIONS AT FIRST VIEW OF EMPTY LANDER BASE QT
   VIDEO: IMAGES RECEIVED FROM SPIRIT AFTER THE ROLL-OFF QT
   VIDEO: ANIMATION OF SPIRIT'S TURNS & DRIVE FROM LANDER QT
   VIDEO: TODAY'S NEWS CONFERENCE AFTER SPIRIT'S DRIVE QT
   VIDEO: MISSION CONTROL TEAM BRIEFED ON SCIENCE PLAN QT
   SUBSCRIBE NOW

Status quicklook
NASA has approved an extended mission for the Mars Exploration Rovers, handing them up to five months of overtime assignments as they finish their three-month prime mission.


Check the status center for complete coverage.


Viking patch
Available now from the Astronomy Now Store: the embroidered mission patch for NASA's Viking Project which reached the Red Planet in 1976.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Mars Rover mission patch
A mission patch featuring NASA's Mars Exploration Rover is now available from the Astronomy Now Store.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Gemini 7
Gemini 7: The NASA Mission Reports covers this 14-day mission by Borman and Lovell as they demonstrated some of the more essential facts of space flight. Includes CD-ROM.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Apollo patches
The Apollo Patch Collection: Includes all 12 Apollo mission patches plus the Apollo Program Patch. Save over 20% off the Individual price.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Mars Rover mission patch
A mission patch featuring NASA's Mars Exploration Rover is available from our online.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Apollo 9 DVD
On the road to the moon, the mission of Apollo 9 stands as an important gateway in experience and procedures. This 2-DVD collection presents the crucial mission on the voyage to the moon.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

New Station
Crew Patch


Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The Expedition 38 embroidered crew patch for the International Space Station is now available in our store!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE


Final Shuttle Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is now available in our store. Get this piece of history!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

STS-134 Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The final planned flight of space shuttle Endeavour is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-134. Available in our store!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Ares 1-X Patch
The official embroidered patch for the Ares 1-X rocket test flight, is available for purchase.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Apollo Collage
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Project Orion
The Orion crew exploration vehicle is NASA's first new human spacecraft developed since the space shuttle a quarter-century earlier. The capsule is one of the key elements of returning astronauts to the Moon.
 U.S. STORE


Fallen Heroes Patch Collection
The official patches from Apollo 1, the shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews are available in the store.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Apollo 11 special patch
Special collectors' patch marking the 35th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing is now available.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Inside Apollo mission control
An insider's view of how Apollo flight controllers operated and just what they faced when events were crucial.
 Choose your store:
U.S.

The ultimate Apollo 11 DVD
This exceptional chronicle of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission features new digital transfers of film and television coverage unmatched by any other.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Next ISS crew
Own a little piece of history with this official patch for the International Space Station's Expedition 11 crew. We'll ship yours today!
 Choose your store:
U.S.

Apollo patches
The Apollo Patch Collection: Includes all 12 Apollo mission patches plus the Apollo Program Patch. Save over 20% off the Individual price.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Get e-mail updates
Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest news in astronomy and space e-mailed direct to your desktop (privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose).
Enter your e-mail address:
MISSION STATUS CENTER

INDEX | PLUS | NEWS ARCHIVE | LAUNCH SCHEDULE
ASTRONOMY NOW | STORE

ADVERTISE

© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.