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Old 07-06-2007   #1
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Are The Mars Rovers Doomed?

Some rather spectacular and huge dust storms are currently raging over a large portion of the surface of Mars. These storms are so huge they are blocking all but a tiny portion of sunlight which reaches the rover's solar panels. The team is very concerned that this might herald the end of the Rover's lives.

Like Project Manager John Callas said, "If Mars wants to kill the rovers, it can."
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Old 07-07-2007   #2
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Re: Are The Mars Rovers Doomed?

Cant the rovers just power down on a reserve battery or something, and then reboot when the sun comes back out? Or is the issue that the sand will destroy the solar panels?
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Old 07-07-2007   #3
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Re: Are The Mars Rovers Doomed?

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Originally Said by Demento View Post
Cant the rovers just power down on a reserve battery or something, and then reboot when the sun comes back out? Or is the issue that the sand will destroy the solar panels?
The issue is this: At night, the rovers computers go to sleep, but they sit in what is in essence a battery operated oven which prevents the computer from freezing and operates continuously. Night time temps, even on the equator in summer on Mars can drop to 100 degrees below zero (summer daytime temps barely reach 0 degrees C) which could cause all sorts of problems-critical solder joints might fracture, hard drive bearings could freeze...stuff like that. If the storm cuts the sunlight off, the rovers won't be able to keep enough surplus charge to maintain the heater operation before the sun comes up in the morning. Even when they were new, the rovers had to sit "asleep" for an hour or so after the sun came up in order for the solar panels to charge the batteries enough to operate the oven as well as the rovers themselves. The rovers have survived dust storms before, but these storms are particularly powerful. As the article said, there are points where only 10% of the normal solar intensity is reaching the ground which is below the minimum threshold needed to keep the batteries charged enough to operate the oven as well as the rovers themselves. Even if the rovers remain asleep, just keeping the heaters on can and will drain the batteries to zero unless these storms pass or thin out. If the storms do weaken, then the rovers could just be kept asleep allowing what power the panels are providing to go towards keeping the heaters operational.
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Even on a completely clear day on Mars, solar intensity is about 1/2 as bright as a day on earth.
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Old 07-24-2007   #4
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GOOD NEWS ABOUT THE ROVERS!!

Quote:
Mars Rovers Weather Worst of Dust Storms
By Ker Than

posted: 23 July 2007
12:59 pm ET
This story was updated at 1:35 pm EDT.

The twin rovers on Mars are in good shape today despite widespread dust storms that worsened last week and threatened to cut off solar power to the robotic explorers.

Steve Squyres of Cornell University, the lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) project, said that both Spirit and Opportunity are in "excellent shape" based on a radio transmission received this morning.

"Both came through the weekend beautifully," Squyres said in a telephone interview. "They were both power positive over the weekend, meaning they were generating more power than they were consuming."

The amount of sunlight penetrating the dust-choked martian atmosphere has increased slightly in recent days, and the batteries of both rovers are fully charged, said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Explorations Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Astronomers measure atmospheric opacity in units of "tau." The lower the tau value, the clearer the sky.

"At its worst, tau was a little over five [for Opportunity]," Meyers told SPACE.com. "It now has dropped down to a little less than four."

The tau value for Spirit, hunkered down half a world away from its twin, has dropped slightly and is currently just less than four, Meyers added.

A tau of five means that less than one percent of direct sunlight is reaching the Mars surface, but the rovers have been successful drawing power from scattered sunlight. Tau levels on Mars at this time of year when no dust storms are occurring are about one, Squyres said.

Even though the rovers were not designed to weather dust storms of this magnitude, Meyers said mission scientists and engineers are optimistic the rovers will survive the dust storms, which have been raging for nearly a month now. All scientific observations and driving-including a planned descent into Victoria Crater by Opportunity-remain suspended, for now, to conserve power.

Mission scientists will "wait and make sure that the storm doesn't kick back up," Meyers said. "They're going to wait it out a few more days to make sure."

"Right now, we're just keeping both vehicles safe, and we've been very successful with that so far," Squyres said. "We'll just wait and see what Mars does."
I don't mind telling you- I was worried sleepless that this might be the end of the amazing chronicals of the Mars rovers but it seems that these little guys are still ready to roll...
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Old 07-25-2007   #5
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Re: Are The Mars Rovers Doomed?

Go Red Rover Go.....they take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.
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Old 09-10-2007   #6
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Re: Are The Mars Rovers Doomed?

In answer to the question I posed as the title of this thread: NO they aren't doomed:

Quote:
Mars Rovers Survive Severe Dust Storms Ready For Next Objectives

by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (SPX) Sep 08, 2007
Two months after sky-darkening dust from severe storms nearly killed NASA's Mars exploration rovers, the solar-powered robots are awake and ready to continue their mission. Opportunity's planned descent into the giant Victoria Crater was delayed, but now the rover is preparing to drive into the half-mile diameter crater as early as Sept. 11.

Spirit, Opportunity's rover twin, also survived the global dust storm. The rovers are 43 months into missions originally planned to last three months. On Sept. 5, Spirit climbed onto its long-term destination called Home Plate, a plateau of layered bedrock bearing clues to an explosive mixture of lava and water.

"These rovers are tough. They faced dusty winds, power starvation and other challenges -- and survived. Now they are back to doing groundbreaking field work on Mars. These spacecraft are amazing," said Alan Stern, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Victoria Crater contains an exposed layer of bright rocks that may preserve evidence of interaction between the Martian atmosphere and surface from millions of years ago, when the atmosphere might have been different from today's. Victoria is the biggest crater Opportunity has visited.

Martian dust storms in July blocked so much sunlight that researchers grew concerned the rovers' daily energy supplies could plunge too low for survival. Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., put Opportunity onto a very low-energy regimen of no movement, few observations and reduced communication with Earth. Skies above both rovers remain dusty but have been clearing gradually since early August.

Dust from the sky has been falling onto both rovers' solar panels, impeding their ability to collect energy from the sun. However, beneficial wind gusts removed some of the new buildup from Opportunity almost as soon as it accumulated.

Opportunity drove to the lip of Victoria Crater in late August and examined possible entry routes. This week, Opportunity has been driving about 130 feet toward its planned entry point. The route will provide better access to a top priority target inside the crater: a bright band of rocks about 40 feet from the rim. "We chose a point that gives us a straight path down, instead of driving cross-slope from our current location," said Paolo Bellutta, a JPL rover driver plotting the route. "The rock surface on which Opportunity will be driving will provide good traction and control of its path into the crater."

For its first foray into the crater, Opportunity will drive just far enough to get all six wheels in; it will then back out and assess slippage on the inner slope. "Opportunity might be ready for that first 'toe dip' into the crater as early as next week," said JPL's John Callas, rover project manager. "In addition to the drives to get to the entry point, we still need to conduct checkouts of two of Opportunity's instruments before sending the rover into the crater."

The rover team plans to assess if dust has impaired use of the microscopic imager. If that tool is working, the team will use it to observe whether a scanning mirror for the miniature thermal emission spectrometer (Mini-TES) can function accurately. This mirror is high on the rover's camera mast. It reflects infrared light from the landscape to the spectrometer at the base of the mast, and it also can be positioned to close the hole in the mast as protection from dust. The last time the spectrometer was used, some aspects of the data suggested the instrument may have been viewing the inside of the mast instead of the Martian landscape.

"If the dust cover or mirror is no longer moving properly, we may have lost the ability to use that instrument on Opportunity," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the rovers' science instruments. "It would be the first permanent loss of an instrument on either rover. But we'll see."

The instrument already has provided extensive valuable information about rocks and soils in the Meridiani region where Opportunity works.

"Mini-TES has told us a lot about the rocks and soils at Meridiani, but we've learned that the differences among Meridiani rocks are often too subtle for it to distinguish," Squyres said. "The same instrument on Spirit, at Gusev Crater, has a much more crucial role for us at this point in the mission because there is such diversity at Gusev." Researchers will rely heavily on a different type of instrument, Opportunity's alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, for analysis of rocks at the bright-band target layer in the crater.
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Old 09-10-2007   #7
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Re: Are The Mars Rovers Doomed?

That's awesome.

These Rovers have been an amazing mission. It's almost as if they are making up for all the other missions that have resorted in failure or were canceled thus wasting taxpayer dollars.
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Old 09-10-2007   #8
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Re: Are The Mars Rovers Doomed?

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That's awesome.

These Rovers have been an amazing mission. It's almost as if they are making up for all the other missions that have resorted in failure or were canceled thus wasting taxpayer dollars.
I agree. I still can't help but be astonished to consider that they were expected to operate for 3 months and geez... almost 5 years and still cruising right along
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Old 09-15-2007   #9
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Re: Are The Mars Rovers Doomed?

Keep on Truckin' baby....got to keep on.
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