LOS ANGELES , Jan. 21 — A thunderstorm in Australia disrupted science work on Mars, where the Spirit rover was waiting for instructions to study a rock, NASA said Wednesday.
Controllers were supposed to beam commands to the rover through a Deep Space Network antenna in Canberra, but rain and lightning made for a weak signal, and “it actually didn’t get all the data,” said mission manager Jennifer Trosper at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
Instead, Spirit continued to use a day-old sequence of commands that kept it awake and communicating but not moving or using its instrument-tipped robotic arm.
“Not a lot of science was done today, but the rover is in a very safe state. It’s healthy,” she said.
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Rain was expected to continue in Canberra for a day or two. Whether that would delay attempts to have Spirit use its arm to drill into a rock was unclear.
NASA wants the six-wheeled vehicle to grind away a tiny area of the weathered face of a rock dubbed Adirondack. The rock beneath could offer clues to Mars’ geologic past.
Spirit landed on Mars Jan. 3 on a two-pronged mission to find out whether the now-dry planet was wetter and hospitable to life long ago. Spirit’s twin, Opportunity, is scheduled to land on Mars on Saturday.
Video: Spirit's 'empty nest'
Is the Red Planet red?
Is the Red Planet red?
The photos of bright red dust, rusty rocks and salmon sky were color-balanced to approximate what a person might see standing on the martian surface, but it may be weeks before scientists perform the calculations to show true color, said Ray Arvidson of Washington University, a scientist on the project.
Mars was sort of a medium chocolate brown in photos taken by the Viking landers in 1976, he said.
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