1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Instruments on El Capitan
NASA - JPL
The latest picture from the Opportunity rover's front hazard avoidance camera shows the probe's robotic arm setting scientific instruments down on a rock named El Capitan.
updated 2/26/2004 5:51:23 PM ET 2004-02-26T22:51:23

NASA's Opportunity had a light day Wednesday, sending scientists information about a rock it has been probing and then taking a nap to power up its batteries.

The six-wheeled rover has been taking daytime naps to recharge because it is working night shifts to study a rock called "El Capitan." Because a Martian winter is beginning, the days are getting shorter, and less sunlight is hitting the solar panels to recharge the robot's batteries.

Scientists are planning to save energy by uploading software in the next month that will stop the robot from drawing on its batteries at night.

Currently, a set of electronics stays on at night even when the robot's main computer goes to sleep. The electronics include an alarm clock that makes Opportunity power up in the morning. But Cook said Opportunity could also be awakened by sunlight activating its solar panels.

"It turns out that besides having the alarm clock, it also can wake up when the sun comes up," Cook said in a conference call Wednesday.

Opportunity has been using its Mössbauer spectrometer at night to study a rock called "El Capitan." The German-built instrument, which measures the composition and abundance of iron-bearing minerals, keeps gathering data at night when the computer is powered down.

Image: Spirit's view
NASA - JPL
A view from the Spirit rover's navigation camera shows drifting sand and a slab of rock in Gusev Crater. Spirit is in the midst of a trek to a crater called "Bonneville," hundreds of feet away from its landing site.
For the last two days, Opportunity has been sending the information to scientists when it wakes up in the morning, and then gone back to sleep.

Scientists involved in the $820 million Mars mission are studying "El Capitan" to examine how the rock formed. They hope the rover mission can uncover evidence of a watery, life-supporting past for the Red Planet.

On the other side of Mars, Opportunity's twin rover, Spirit, moved about 10 feet (3 meters) closer to a crater called "Bonneville," nearly 300 feet (900 meters) away. They expect the rover to reach its rim and peer into it for the first time in mid-March.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

TODAY's Takeaway
  1. Getty Images; TODAY

    Natalie celebrates Boston Marathon triumphs; Willie rings in Earth Day

    4/22/2014 8:39:34 PM +00:00 2014-04-22T20:39:34
  1. Danh Tang via Facebook; David Ab

    'Incredible': Runners with dwarfism on return to Boston Marathon

    4/22/2014 8:52:13 PM +00:00 2014-04-22T20:52:13
  1. Jason Merritt / Getty Images

    Girl power: Drew Barrymore welcomes her second daughter

    4/22/2014 9:35:41 PM +00:00 2014-04-22T21:35:41
  1. Mat Hayward / Getty Images Contributor

    Snoop Dogg loves Brian Williams' rap of 'Gin and Juice'

    4/22/2014 8:15:04 PM +00:00 2014-04-22T20:15:04
  1. Mysterious spike: More babies born with rare defect

    Seven cases of a rare fatal birth defect were reported in a remote region of Washington state in 2013, making it the fourth consecutive year that rates have more than tripled the national average, health officials said Tuesday.

    4/22/2014 8:27:33 PM +00:00 2014-04-22T20:27:33