[medium 300K] [large 12.6 mb]

The first 360-degree color view from NASA’s Spirit Mars
Exploration Rover presents a range of tempting targets from
nearby rocks to hills on the horizon.

“The whole panorama is there before us,” said rover science-
team member Dr. Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems,
San Diego. “It’s a great opening to the next stage of our

Spirit’s flight team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL), Pasadena, Calif., continues making progress toward
getting the rover off its lander platform, but expected no
sooner than early Thursday morning. “We’re about to kick the
baby bird out of its nest,” said JPL’s Kevin Burke, lead
mechanical engineer for the rover’s egress off the lander.

The color panorama is a mosaic stitched from 225 frames taken
by Spirit’s panoramic camera, or Pancam. It spans 75 frames
across, three frames tall, with color information from shots
through three different filters. The images were calibrated
at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., home institution for Dr.
Jim Bell, Pancam team leader.

Malin said, “Seeing the panorama totally assembled instead of
in individual pieces gives a much greater appreciation for
the position of things and helps in developing a sense of
direction. I find it easier to visualize where I am on Mars
when I can look at different directions in one view. For a
field geologist, it’s exactly the kind of thing you want to
look at to understand where you are.”

Another new image product from Spirit shows a patch of
intriguing soil near the lander in greater detail than an
earlier view of the same area. Scientists have dubbed the
patch “Magic Carpet” for how some soil behaved when scraped
by a retracting airbag.

“It has been detached and folded like a piece of carpet
sliding across the floor,” said science-team member Dr. John
Grotzinger of Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

Spirit’s next step in preparing to drive onto the surface of
Mars is to sever its final connection with the lander
platform by firing a cable cutter, which Burke described as
“an explosive guillotine.” The planned sequence after that is
a turn in place of 115 degrees clockwise, completed in three
steps over the next two days. If no obstacles are seen from
images taken partway through that turn, drive-off is planned
toward the northwestern compass point of 286 degrees.
Spirit landed on Mars Jan. 3 (EST) after a seven-month
journey. Its task is to spend the next three months exploring
rocks and soil for clues about whether the past environment
in Gusev Crater was ever watery and suitable to sustain life.
Spirit’s twin Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, will reach
Mars Jan. 25 (EST) to begin a similar examination of a site
on a broad plain called Meridiani Planum, on the opposite
side of the planet from Gusev Crater.

NASA JPL, a division of the California Institute of
Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover
project for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington.

For information about NASA and the Mars mission on the
Internet, visit:

Additional information about the project is available on the
Internet at:
Mission information is also available from Cornell
University, at: