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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: 2) by jmorris on Wednesday June 13, @12:56AM

    by jmorris (4844) <jmorrisNO@SPAMbeau.org> on Wednesday June 13, @12:56AM (#692178)

    It isn't just a scam. It is about setting expectations for everyone. If you declare you are designing for a one year mission people will start asking why there aren't some more science things on it to keep it busy for a year. So then you have to make it bigger, more expensive and probably more prone to fail. Oops. And no matter what, now if it fails in six months you will get declared only partly successful. Better to declare a mission time in line with what you are trying to accomplish and if the thing is still in good condition after you achieve all of that; then reevaluate based on new the information you already have about where you landed, what still works, what systems are questionable, and just how much extra abuse you think the machine is up for.

    All these rovers were intended to do was land, look around and instead of being limited to just examining whatever they happened to fall out of the sky on, be able to see a couple of nearby interesting things to go make closeup examinations of a few of them, poke a hole in a couple, that sort of thing. Even with all this time Opportunity hasn't exactly covered a lot of ground, not even 50 kilos, and not it a straight line. Had they been building them to run a decade they would have built them very differently. Certainly provided a way to keep the solar collectors clear.

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