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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: 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.

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