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Spotlight On Mars - Image
Don't Worry, Spirit, MARCI's Got Your Back
November 20, 2008
This set of four images arranged in a square shows swirls of reddish-orange Martian dust clouds viewed from above. Spirit's location is labeled 'MER-A' and a white arrow pointing to a dot. From left to right in the top two photos and then from left to right in the bottom two photos, dust clouds advance sideways from west (left) to east (right). Labels accompanying the images show dates from 'November 7, 2008' through 'November 10, 2008.' In the lower left-hand corner, a white scale bar corresponding to a distance of '300 km' is posted beneath an upward-pointing arrow labeled 'N' for North.

The solar system's most celebrated team of off-planet drivers cheered when they heard the news. Spirit had phoned home from Mars, ending four days of silence. The team had kept the rover safe, with help from a friend named "Marci."

Spirit had survived a fierce and sudden dust storm that had driven solar power to all-time lows. Without being able to notify Earth, Spirit had followed instructions the team sent to protect the rover.

The team had received warning from scientists who keep tabs on Martian weather with MARCI -- short for Mars Color Imager. From orbit, the instrument showed thick, swirling dust clouds advancing from the west. Engineers responded with instructions to conserve energy. They told Spirit to turn off a heater and do only two things each day -- check battery power and dust in the atmosphere.

As directed, Spirit contacted Earth on Nov. 13, 2008. The rover team celebrated with home-baked brownies.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Mars Color Imager (MARCI)

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
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