Menu
Mars rovers return to exploration

Mars rovers return to exploration

The two Mars rovers that have been carefully conserving critical power supplies since June, when the summer dust-storm season began on the red planet, are now springing back to work as the storms subside.

Jake Matijevic, engineering team chief at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California., said the dust storms have been easing over the past two weeks, allowing the two rovers to collect more sunlight with their solar panels to recharge their batteries.

When the dust storms were at their strongest in June and July, as much as 99 percent of the sunlight in the planet's southern hemisphere was blocked -- drastically affecting the Opportunity rover.

The storms meant cutbacks in operations as both Opportunity and its sibling, Spirit, on the other side of the planet, drastically conserved power so their systems would survive and continue to operate.

"Everything survived just fine," Matijevic said. "We came out of the storms without a problem."

So far, power levels on both rovers remain below prestorm levels, he said, but they are enough for the rovers to again move about and continue to explore the planet's surface.

Both rovers are resuming work after a series of certification tests to be sure that all systems are still operating properly. Mission engineers are again able to send commands to the rovers and receive data back on a daily basis, which wasn't possible for the past two months. "We were spreading those out over a couple of days [during the dust storms] just to try to conserve energy," Matijevic said.

Past storms on Mars affected the rovers, but those were only short-term events, Matijevic said. This year's storms were especially strong.

Typically, the solar panels on each rover produce about 700 watt-hours of electricity per day -- enough to light a 100-watt bulb for seven hours, according to NASA. But this year's dust storms reduced that to as little as 128 watt hours per day.

When daily power generation is down to less than 400 watt-hours, the rovers suspend their driving on the planet and stop using their robotic arms, cameras and other instruments.

Electrical power is critical on the rovers in the deep cold of space, where subfreezing temperatures can destroy sensitive electronics. If the batteries completely die, heating systems on the rovers that keep those sensitive electronic parts within a safe temperature range would fail, leaving the rovers so cold that their onboard electronics would likely fail.

The two rovers, which landed on Mars three weeks apart in January 2004, were designed to collect information, perform experiments and travel the planet for 90 days. Instead, they have collected data on Mars for more than three years, giving scientists and researchers a wealth of information.

Matijevic says the rover Opportunity will continue its exploration of the Victoria Crater on Mars to learn more about the terrain, while Spirit will soon explore Gusev Crater near where it landed.

The dust-storm season, while easing, will continue through mid-November, so the rovers won't return to full power right away, Matijevic said.

READ THIS: Robot Reseach: Pie In The Sky Dreams:

http://blogs.reseller.co.nz/reseller/channelling/2007/07/robot_research_pie_in_the_sky.html


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags opportunityNASAmarsmars roverdust stormsSpirit

Events

Featured

Slideshows

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners

This year’s Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards were held as an integral part of the first entirely virtual Emerging Leaders​ forum, an annual event dedicated to identifying, educating and showcasing the New Zealand technology market’s rising stars. The 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 recognised the outstanding achievements and business excellence of 30 talented individuals​, across both young leaders and those just starting out. In this slideshow, Reseller News honours this year's winners and captures their thoughts about how their ideas of leadership have changed over time.​

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners
Reseller News Exchange Auckland: Beyond the myths — how partners can master cloud security

Reseller News Exchange Auckland: Beyond the myths — how partners can master cloud security

This exclusive Reseller News Exchange event in Auckland explored the challenges facing the partner community on the cloud security frontier, as well as market trends, customer priorities and how the channel can capitalise on the opportunities available. In association with Arrow, Bitdefender, Exclusive Networks, Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News Exchange Auckland: Beyond the myths — how partners can master cloud security
Reseller News welcomes industry figures at 2020 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomes industry figures at 2020 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomed 2019 inductees - Leanne Buer, Ross Jenkins and Terry Dunn - to the fourth running of the Reseller News Hall of Fame lunch, held at the French Cafe in Auckland. The inductees discussed the changing face of the IT channel ecosystem in New Zealand and what it means to be a Reseller News Hall of Fame inductee. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News welcomes industry figures at 2020 Hall of Fame lunch
Show Comments