Rover 'holds hands' with Barnacle Bill
July 7, 1997
Web posted at: 3:40 p.m. EDT (1940 GMT)
PASADENA, California (CNN) -- The Sojourner rover has begun
its analysis of Martian rocks, sitting face-to-face Monday
with a lumpy rock dubbed "Barnacle Bill" by NASA scientists.
The rover traveled only a foot across the powdery red soil of
Mars to reach Barnacle Bill. Its spectrometer made contact
with the rock on the first try, despite scientists' fears
that the rock's angles would prevent the rover from getting
in the right position for a good reading.
"Sojourner and Barnacle Bill are holding hands," deputy
project manager Brian Muirhead told The Associated Press late
Sunday as a television feed at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory showed the six-wheeled rover up against a
The slow-moving Sojourner, which creeps just 1 centimeter a
second, began its descent down ramps to the Martian surface
early Sunday morning.
It later plunged its spectrometer into the dust at the bottom
of the ramp, beginning NASA's up-close chemical examination
of the planet. The soil analysis has not yet been released by
Sojourner can stay in touch with the lander up to 300 feet
away. For the time being, however, the rover's control team
plans to keep Sojourner from roving very far.
"We'll probably be sticking close to the lander early on and
getting the easiest science opportunities out first," said
Brian Cooper, who "drives" the rover from 120 million miles
away using a computer screen, a joy stick and
Because of distance and the delay in sending commands, Cooper
does his navigation while Sojourner is sleeping, using images
sent from the lander for guidance. The information is stored
and sent later, so the rover usually moves while Cooper
'Sniffer' taking closer look at rock
After bumping up against Barnacle Bill -- which got its name
because of barnacle-like structures that appeared in images
beamed back to Earth -- Sojourner activated its APXS, short
for alpha proton X-ray spectrometer. The device, referred to
colloquially by the JPL team as the "sniffer," will allow
scientists on Earth to determine the chemical composition of
The rover was programmed to spend 10 hours nosing up against
Barnacle Bill. The first information from APXS is expected to
arrive on Earth late Monday afternoon.
The next stop for the 22-pound mobile geologist? Probably a
larger nearby rock, which JPL workers nicknamed "Yogi," for
The camera on Pathfinder also is returning valuable
geological information in the form of detailed photos of the
landscape showing possible watermarks on hills, and
horizontal bands that could have been shaped by water.
Mars is thought to have had water, a vital component of life,
on its surface billions of years ago. That water could have
been lost to space, or it could still be on Mars today,
frozen underground and in the polar caps.
"Mars may even be more water-rich than Earth is. We really
don't know," project scientist Matthew Golombek said.
Sojourner's cameras also will be taking the first images of
Pathfinder's landing craft, the Sagan Memorial Station, so
NASA scientists can learn more about how it handled its crash
landing onto the Martian surface.
Problem communications link now 80 percent
Deployment of the rover was delayed a day after a
communications link between Sojourner and the Sagan station
failed to work properly. NASA scientists say they still don't
know what caused the glitch. They said Sunday that about 80
percent of the information is now getting through.
Rover engineer Matt Wallace said getting the rover off the
lander and onto the Martian surface was one of the most
difficult hurdles in Sojourner's mission. With that now
behind them, the rover team plans to spend the next few days
getting a feel for navigating the craft on the fourth rock
from the sun.
"Certainly, we will continue to expect surprises in some
sense," said Jacob Matijevic, Mars rover manager. "I think
the first couple of days here is an opportunity for us to
sort of test some things out with the vehicle, give us a
little bit of experience in driving on the surface and
getting to various locations."
Miami Bureau Chief John Zarrella contributed to this report.
- Sojourner, meet Barnacle Bill - July 6, 1997
- Pathfinder named for late Carl Sagan - July 6, 1997
Clarke sees Mars colonization closer - July 6, 1997
- Tiny Mars rover set to take giant roll for mankind - July 5, 1997
- NASA gets good news on Pathfinder glitch - July 5, 1997
- CNN: NASA TV live
- NASA gets good news on
Pathfinder glitch - July 5, 1997
- Communications glitch hampers Mars rover - July 5, 1997
- Mars Pathfinder sends first snapshots - July 4, 1997
- NASA: Pathfinder has landed - July 4, 1997
- Pathfinder speeds toward Martian surface - July 4, 1997
- Pathfinder nears its destiny - July 3, 1997
- Scientists giddy as Pathfinder nears Mars - July 1, 1997
- NASA hope third time's the charm for Mars probe launch - December 3, 1996
- Pathfinder to roam Mars in search of possible life - October 1, 1996
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