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Martian dust storm covers Spirit's solar panels in dust

This has proven to be a bad week for NASA rovers patrolling Mars. NASA has several rovers on the surface of Mars performing various missions including looking for water and existence of ice on the red planet.

Yesterday, NASA announced that it had lost communications with the Phoenix lander and had no expectations of the lander surviving the inhospitable Martian winter. Despite the fact that the rover has been declared dead by NASA, the Phoenix mission was a success and lasted longer than originally planned by NASA.

Today, NASA has announced that the Spirit rover is also in jeopardy of failing. Lack of sunlight hitting the solar panels of Spirit is causing serious concern at NASA. According to scientists on the mission, Spirit only produced 89 watt-hours of energy last weekend, which is half the amount of power the rover needs for full performance.

The reason for the drop in power production is a massive dust storm that deposited Martian dust on the solar panels and prevented sunlight form reaching them. Spirit's mission began in 2003 when it was sent to the red planet to search for clues on past water on the surface of the planet.

To help conserve power and prevent Spirit from running its batteries dry, NASA instructed the rover to turn off several heaters designed to keep scientific instruments warm. The rover was also ordered to stop communicating with Earth until Thursday.

NASA says that if it doesn't hear form Spirit on Thursday it will be extremely concerned. Scientists hope Spirit will make it, the dust storms over it position have abated. It's not known if the storm caused damage to any of the rover's instruments at this time or if the rover will be able to move again due to the dust on the panels.

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Longer then expected...
By abraxas1 on 11/12/2008 1:13:46 PM , Rating: 4
There's "Longer then expected", then there's "Holy WTF"

I think the rovers have reached the "Holy WTF" status when it comes to life expectancy.

RE: Longer then expected...
By JBird7986 on 11/12/2008 1:18:24 PM , Rating: 4
I'd say so...January 2009 makes what, five years out of what was supposed to be a 90-day mission? Heck...even the Enterprise only went on five-year missions! ;)

RE: Longer then expected...
By amanojaku on 11/12/2008 1:30:49 PM , Rating: 1
That was original Enterprise, and it was only one mission. Successors went on a continuing mission.

RE: Longer then expected...
By Tsuwamono on 11/12/2008 2:18:50 PM , Rating: 2
NC-01 is the first and therefore can be refered to with only the designation Enterprise. all others should require Enterprise A, B, C, D, E, etc.

RE: Longer then expected...
By quiksilvr on 11/12/2008 2:43:57 PM , Rating: 4
Oh dear God...

RE: Longer then expected...
By FITCamaro on 11/12/2008 4:21:10 PM , Rating: 2
Which is more entertaining? Cripple fight or nerd fight?

RE: Longer then expected...
By Aquila76 on 11/12/2008 5:16:30 PM , Rating: 5
How about a crippled nerd fight?

Stephen Hawking vs. Davros


RE: Longer then expected...
By quiksilvr on 11/12/2008 5:18:23 PM , Rating: 2
Dammit you beat me to it!

RE: Longer then expected...
By jgvandemeer on 11/12/2008 7:03:41 PM , Rating: 2
I had to google that Davros reference. Guess I'm out of touch on geek-cultural references.

RE: Longer then expected...
By Souka on 11/13/2008 11:13:19 AM , Rating: 2's been around for what... 30yrs? Plus was it re-kindled in the recent re-do of Dr. Who?

RE: Longer then expected...
By quiksilvr on 11/12/2008 5:17:54 PM , Rating: 3
RE: Longer then expected...
By ultimatebob on 11/12/2008 3:15:38 PM , Rating: 3
Wow... not only was that comment geeky as hell, it was wrong! The "original" Enterprise (the one with Kirk and Spock on it) was NCC-1701... no bloody A,B,C,D, or E!

RE: Longer then expected...
By Belard on 11/12/2008 4:27:17 PM , Rating: 2
When does the 1701-F come out?

RE: Longer then expected...
By BBeltrami on 11/12/2008 6:02:34 PM , Rating: 5
Whenever my wife pulls my finger.

RE: Longer then expected...
By Belard on 11/13/2008 6:10:49 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not kidding...

Just as this page loaded up and was reading what you posted... I farted.

WOW! OMG! You Betcha!

RE: Longer then expected...
By blazeoptimus on 11/12/2008 3:59:03 PM , Rating: 3
Not only that, but if he was referring to the show "Star Trek: Enterprise" The designation was actually NX-01 (being that it was still partially a prototype). NCC wasn't supposed to be in used till the TOS era in the Star Trek Universe.

And yes, I do watch "The Big Bang Theory" for the Star Trek jokes.

RE: Longer then expected...
By FreeTard on 11/12/2008 3:22:16 PM , Rating: 2
It is kind of a dissapointment, but they've been on borrowed time for a long time now. It can't honestly be considered earth shattering for Nasa.

It is kind of sad that the mission may finally end. I think it was one of the last really popular, highly publicized (positive) events for NASA.

RE: Longer then expected...
By Reclaimer77 on 11/13/2008 12:39:28 AM , Rating: 2
I think its sad that the geniuses at Nasa couldn't put windshield wipers on this trillion dollar project.

What a lack of foresight on Nasa's part. That a rover landing on a planet which has an atmosphere comprised almost entirely of dust storms, would fall prey to dust. Man, who could have seen that coming right ?

RE: Longer then expected...
By geddarkstorm on 11/13/2008 1:03:20 PM , Rating: 3
They expected the dust to kill the rover by the end of its 90 day mission - the fact it survived almost five years (!!) now was a total shock to engineers. Not to mention all the gears and heaters and other instruments that were designed only for 90 days but have lasted this long and through many dust storms. It's a true testament to engineering the right way.

For weight, space, and complexity reasons, there was no need for wipers.

RE: Longer then expected...
By rudolphna on 11/12/2008 8:05:18 PM , Rating: 4
Nah, I think Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are at the Holy WTF point of life expectancy, and they are expected to keep going until 2020, possibly 2025.

RE: Longer then expected...
By ViroMan on 11/12/2008 9:54:59 PM , Rating: 2
You know... you would think they would have learned there lesson and invented some kind of way to wipe off the solar panels by now.

RE: Longer then expected...
By geddarkstorm on 11/13/2008 1:06:39 PM , Rating: 3
Or put them at a slightly oblique angle. But, then again, when anything that was designed from the ground up to only last a mere 90 days (three months) lasts nearly five years instead, it makes it seem silly to nit pick their design.

RE: Longer then expected...
By 91TTZ on 11/13/08, Rating: -1
"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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