Why is Spirit Looking at itself?

Editor's note: Can anyone tell me why Spirit is taking hi res pictures of its photovoltaic arrays with its micro imager? [More images]. The detail that some of these self-portraits show is rather astonishing. Is this just about checking dust deposition (and power generation efficiency) or is there a reason why this one particular portion of the PV array is of such great interest?

The Rover's PI and and a scientist at NASA GRC respond to this posting below:

Update: According to a note from Rover PI Steve Squyres: "We're looking at this part of the array with the MI because it's the part that we can reach. The purpose of the images is just what you've guessed... to help us study dust buildup on the arrays."

Update: According to a note from Geoffrey Landis at NASA GRC: Hi, Keith I'm the one who requested the solar array images. Dust deposition on Mars is an interesting problem, both as a science question where studying dust deposition on the surface contributes to our fundamental understanding of Martian climate processes, and also as an engineering problem. There's a lot we don't know, in particular, about whether the native dust is going to form "fairy castle" structures agglomerated together by electrostatic forces, whether and to what extend water or frost modifies the dust deposition process, or whether the individual dust particles deposit separately without interacting with each other. The solar arrays are an excellent surface for studying dust deposition, since we know that all of the dust we see on the surface is dust that has been deposited since January 3 2004.

See http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/PAO/pressrel/2002/02-041.html: "Dr. Geoffrey A. Landis, an aerospace engineer at NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, thinks he knows what it takes to explore Mars. And the Agency believes him. Landis' proposal, "Study of Solar Energy and Dust Accumulation on the Rovers," was one of 28 scientific studies of Mars recently selected by NASA for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover Mission."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on December 6, 2004 3:07 PM.

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