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posted by janrinok on Tuesday June 12, @10:42PM   Printer-friendly
from the we're-rootin'-for-you dept.

The Mars Opportunity rover is caught in a dust storm, and the craft is hunkered down doing its best to survive the intensifying weather. The storm was first detected on Friday June 1st by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, at which point the rover's team was notified because of the weather event's proximity to Opportunity. The rover uses solar panels, so a dust storm could have an extremely negative impact on Opportunity's power levels and its batteries.

By Wednesday June 6th, Opportunity was in minimal operations mode because of sharply decreasing power levels. The brave little rover is continuing to weather the storm; it sent a transmission back to Earth Sunday morning, which is a good sign. It means there's still enough charge left in the batteries to communicate with home, despite the fact that the storm is continuing to worsen.

[...] The main concern here isn't the dust storm itself. It's the need to keep the rover's heaters operational while maintaining a minimal power level in the batteries. This isn't the first storm that Opportunity has weathered, but it is the worst. According to NASA, the weather event the rover faced in 2007 had an opacity level around 5.5. The estimate for this current storm is somewhere around 10.8.

Opportunity is a hardy little rover, though, and it has continually defied our expectations over the last 15 years. The rover was only designed to last for a 90-day mission, and yet it's still going. Here's hoping that Oppy will continue its trek across the Martian surface for many, many days to come.


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bob_super on Wednesday June 13, @12:02AM

    by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday June 13, @12:02AM (#692154)

    - Surviving the landing
    - Deploying the comms antennas correctly
    - Not getting stuck in the sand
    - Not getting too much sand on the panels
    - Batteries not dying

    First three successes means you get some science done, as long as the last two keep happening. Forecast for batteries has to be conservative given the insane requirements. The sand accumulation was supposed to be the progressive killer, and NASA/JPL have been very happy to fall on the low end of those estimates. I don't think anyone expected to go past a winter or with great luck two, so starting the ball at 90 days was a way to be better than expected.

    Starting Score:    1  point
    Moderation   +1  
       Interesting=1, Total=1
    Extra 'Interesting' Modifier   0  
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   3