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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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RE: all this money spent
By bhieb on 11/12/2008 1:37:25 PM , Rating: 3
Echoing the below post. I think they did quite well since all that money was spent on a 90-day mission that is pushing 5 years. IMHO these 2 rovers are perhaps the best NASA project ever when it comes to bang for your buck.

So why did some of the smartest engineers in the country not think the "dome", but you magically did? Well probably because it would have been a total waste on a 90-day project.


RE: all this money spent
By tmouse on 11/12/2008 2:04:28 PM , Rating: 2
Actually that’s not necessarily true. Sometimes one is so close to a problem you become myopic, and then someone says something totally naive, at first you say “you don't know what you’re talking about “ then you think about it and think.....Crap why didn't we see that.


RE: all this money spent
By bhieb on 11/12/2008 3:56:39 PM , Rating: 2
No disagreement there, but acting like anything regarding these rovers was a "waste of money" is pretty far fetched. A 90 day life expectancy that lasts 5 years is nothing short of extraordinary, and there is just no need to second guess the engineering now by all intents and purposes it was superb.


RE: all this money spent
By rudolphna on 11/12/2008 9:17:12 PM , Rating: 2
No, again that is Voyager. Launched in 77, we have gotten so much valuable information from them, and they will keep going till 2020


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