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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 richtopia on Wednesday June 13, @04:25PM (2 children)

    by richtopia (3160) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 13, @04:25PM (#692391) Homepage Journal

    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.

    It is not so much surviving the storm, but sustaining minimum power during the storm. An update from the article:

    Update (June 13th at 10:00 AM): NASA released more information about Opportunity last night, and things don't look good. The rover's team tried to contact Opportunity yesterday and didn't receive a response. They are assuming this means that the rover's batteries are now critically low, and it's currently in low power fault mode. This means that all subsystems except the mission clock have been shut down, and the computer will automatically reawaken to check power levels.

    Starting Score:    1  point
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  • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday June 13, @05:02PM (1 child)

    by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday June 13, @05:02PM (#692406)

    > sustaining minimum power during the storm

    "keep the rover's heaters operational", because under 40 degrees, even mil/space chips may not operate. Hence the "keep warm" Tauntaun reference.

    Yuck, I don't like this update. Discard a car after 15 years, sure, but after 15 years of defying the odds, you kind of have to root for that toy.

    • (Score: 2) by kazzie on Wednesday June 13, @07:55PM

      by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 13, @07:55PM (#692503)

      That comment's got me thinking: Opportunity has been as on Mars for as long as my 14-year-old car has been out of the factory.