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'Something' Cleaning Mars Rover 355

bluenirve writes "'Something' has been cleaning the solar panels of the Mars rover Opportunity. "NASA's Mars rover Opportunity seems to have stumbled into something akin to a carwash that has left its solar panels much cleaner than those of its twin rover, Spirit. A Martian carwash would account for a series of unexpected boosts in the electrical power produced by Opportunity's solar panels.""
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'Something' Cleaning Mars Rover

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  • by Adam9 (93947) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:08PM (#11172195) Journal
    When NASA scientists had the rover examine its solar panels for dirt, it replied, "Nothing for you to see here. Please move along."
  • Yesterday's News. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vaevictis666 (680137) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:08PM (#11172197)
    Dupe from Yesterday [slashdot.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:09PM (#11172209)
    Isn't it clear that homeless Martians have newspapers to clean the panels too?
  • by Neologic (48268) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:10PM (#11172220)
    That Martian is going to get pissed when the probe doesn't give him a tip.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:10PM (#11172225)
    Women are from Mars.
  • Nitrogen (Score:3, Interesting)

    by panxerox (575545) * on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:11PM (#11172232)
    I've always wondered why they never put a little bottlie of compressed nitrogen on the rover with nozzels pointed at the panels. Press a switch on earth and pffftt! dust be gone!
    • Re:Nitrogen (Score:5, Insightful)

      by prisoner-of-enigma (535770) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:37PM (#11172500) Homepage
      Perhaps it's because an exploding bottle of nitrogen would probably total the probe. Always consider what failure of the doo-dad would do to the overall mission before including the doo-dad. Dirty solar panels are one thing, shredded panels is another.
    • Ultrasonic cleaning (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EvilMidnightBomber (778018) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @10:16PM (#11173981) Homepage
      I had almost exactly the same problem when prototyping my robot lawn mower. (crappy pic in profile) The first rev. used optical interrupters to sense a cut grass edge, and these would rapidly become unusable due to dust. I ran through the feasibility of using such an onboard(liqufied) gas tank, but the ratio of functionality to weight is king in any mobile (and especially spaceborne) app and this falls short on that mark (beside being non-renewable). Wipers (and worse yet the geared motor to drive them) are similarly bulky, and unless you're using diamond coated optics,(no water here to lubricate things) wiping the dust eventually produces hazing due to microscratches. The solution I found was to incorporate the equivalent of an ultrasonic parts cleaner. A cheap high-powered motorola peizo tweeter from rat-shack acoustically coupled to the optics support bar and driven at 40khz does an incredible job of knocking off ALL the loose dust, and it's very light weight. The rover could do the same thing by tilting it's panels vertically and then letting rip with the u-sound. About one x-ducer per square meter is all it would take.
  • by signingis (158683) <signingis AT hotmail DOT com> on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:11PM (#11172236) Journal
    Is NASA going to have a stinky, unwashed, unshaven martian approach the camera and ask for change?
  • I don't know why (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eclectro (227083) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:12PM (#11172240)

    they just didn't put a windshield wiper with a mister on the rovers.

    Then there would be water on Mars!
  • by swschrad (312009) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:12PM (#11172246) Homepage Journal
    maybe one of the "lost" landers has a crush on opportunity ;) OK, enough slashdot, back to the egg nog....
  • Beagle 2 (Score:3, Funny)

    by piquadratCH (749309) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:13PM (#11172257)
    So THAT's what Beagle 2 is doing all the time up there...
  • Design (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FiReaNGeL (312636) <fireang3l@hotmailCHEETAH.com minus cat> on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:17PM (#11172297) Homepage
    NASA engineers decided not to put wipers on the solar panels, because it would have been too much trouble / added too much weight. I guess they're pretty happy with their decision now, with the 'unexpected' cleaning events...
    • Re:Design (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      NASA engineers decided not to put wipers on the solar panels, because it would have been too much trouble / added too much weight. I guess they're pretty happy with their decision now, with the 'unexpected' cleaning events...

      But the cleaning is limited to one rover and perhaps not permanent. Some speculate it might be due to Opportunity's tilt while in the crater. Now that it is out of the crater, the washing may end.

      Nor do they know the impact of wipers on Mars dust. It may make the problem worse for
  • Explanation (Score:5, Funny)

    by JustinXB (756624) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:22PM (#11172359)
    • I didn't get that cartoon. What does it mean?
    • I totally don't get it.

      ::Stares at the picture a bit more::

      Oh wait.

    • I don't get it :(
      • by tepples (727027)

        I don't get it either. Does "WASH Me" mean something in a Martian language?

        • by cdrudge (68377) *
          Ok. Here's an explanation. The rover(s) are losing power because dust is settling on the solar collectors. But in one case, there was this magical boost in power output by 5%. The first thing you would think of is that more sunlight is getting to the photo cells. Some Martian kid came by and, with his finger/tentacle/whatever, wrote "Wash Me" on one of the panels, just like kids do here on earth with dirty vehicles.
  • Hm, that's a good business idea.
  • C'mon, dust devils? Super wind? Driving at a tilt? Clearly there's a simpler explanation [tvland.com].
  • I hope they don't expect this to be a freebie, or else don't expect all the hubcaps to be there next time!
  • by Audacious (611811) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:32PM (#11172445) Homepage
    I told those peskey custodians to NOT clean the rover while it was on the set!
  • That blasted Wesley Crusher has been screwing around with his school projects again!
  • I, for one, welcome our new cleanliness-obsessed Martian overlords. It will put a lot of streetcorner windows washing bums out of jobs, though.
  • don't forget that something had to put the dust on top of the solar panels in the first place, so the same thing can move it off the rover...

    • driving around could stir up the dust. Coming to a sudden stop (crashing) could tip a fair bit of it off too. That's how I clean my door mat - belt it against a tree or rock.
  • by saddino (183491) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:40PM (#11172521)
    As evidenced by this image [yumahouse.com].
  • by Magickcat (768797) * on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:44PM (#11172550)
    A similar phenomena used to occur in my room as a teenager. Perhaps the two occurances are somehow connected.
  • Where are we going to find the five quarfloos to pay the Martian homeless person with the squeegee?
  • dust devils? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jokach (462761) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:46PM (#11172563) Homepage
    The article states:
    And the researchers suspect the shape of the crater may encourage the development of dust devils or other wind patterns that could help scrub the panels.

    The tornado like winds that can be caused by dust devils is something that was discussed by NASA back in April and surely seems like the real answer:

    http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/dust_devils_ 040420.html [space.com]

    I'm not sure why they think its such a mystery now ...
  • The answer is obvious: the little green men that are following the rovers around and putting photos of a desolate wasteland up to the rover cameras have decided to prolong their fun by cleaning the solar panel with Windex.
  • by jbwolfe (241413) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @05:49PM (#11172588) Homepage
    Static charge?
  • A drunk martian took a piss on our billion dollar mission.
  • Opportunity climbed a huge crater down and later up again. I could imagine that due to the steep climbing angle some of the sand fell off. My lame theory, i know it's statically loaded and sticky and I know gravity is only a third, but it could be a factor, maybe?
  • watt-hours per day (Score:3, Informative)

    by aberson (461047) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @06:06PM (#11172723) Homepage
    seems a little redundant

    power * time / time = power

    900 Watts * hours / day * (1 day / 24 hours) = 37.5 Watts.

    Why not just say that to start?
    • They have to plan operations to work within a daily energy budget. The big yellow thing in the sky disappears at night.
  • The migrated from Houston/W. Broadway and are now working the crater for the holidays.
  • by alonsoac (180192) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @10:39PM (#11174134) Homepage Journal
    what are the odds?
  • by iabervon (1971) on Thursday December 23, 2004 @11:34PM (#11174430) Homepage Journal
    As anyone who's played a racing car game in the past twenty years can tell you, when you pass a checkpoint, you get more time. As long as they keep completing new areas, they'll keep getting bonuses. On the other hand, if the Spirit team doesn't get moving, they're going to have to put in another quarter pretty soon.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard