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Mars Space Science

Mars Winds Clean Spirit's Solar Panels Again 269

Titoxd writes "In a blast from the past, NASA reports that Spirit's solar panels have received a much-needed cleaning courtesy of the Red Planet. The report states, 'The cleaning boosts Spirit's daily energy supply by about 30 watt-hours, to about 240 watt-hours from 210 watt-hours. The rover uses about 180 watt-hours per day for basic survival and communications, so this increase roughly doubles the amount of discretionary power for activities such as driving and using instruments.'"
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Mars Winds Clean Spirit's Solar Panels Again

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  • by OhHellWithIt ( 756826 ) * on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @04:14PM (#26906353) Journal
    . . . don't forget to pack the broom.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Am I the only one that read this and said "That is effing awsome?"
  • by macxcool ( 1370409 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @04:14PM (#26906357)
    That's much better than NASA's alternative plan of sending a Squeegee Kid to do the job.
    • by GargamelSpaceman ( 992546 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @04:23PM (#26906481) Homepage Journal
      It was a martian. You see about a billion years ago, the Martian civilization discovered the secret of consiousness. Eventually the robots they created displaced them, and then when the planet's resources were depleted, they left for the stars leaving behind some curators. These curators are not really consious, their robotic creators ensured this so that they would be reliable in their task of preserving their martian heritage, but sometimes they do act in ways that are, almost uncannily lifelike.

      This was the case here. The Martian curator bots find the rovers interesting, or rather, they find their controllers interesting. They periodically dust the solar panels so that they will be able to keep roving. They are curious as to what they are doing, maybe even appreciative that someone has visited to appreciate what they have devoted the past eon to preserving. For them, watching us look is most gratifying. They really ache to communicate with us and show us all the Martian history in their underground vaults, but because of their programming to remain inconspicuous, they can't. Still, they are helpful when they can be and not give themselves away.

      • by flitty ( 981864 )
        I believe it was actually Dr. Manhattan flying Silk Spectre around. When they passed over, good old Doc blew it off for us.
      • >>>The Martian curator bots periodically dust the solar panels

        I figured the bots performed an upgrade, such that the panels are just as dirty as before, but now they have been upgraded to more-efficient Martian red-dust-based panels.

        Another possibility is that the panels have been infected by microbes that scrubbed the surface clean, thereby boosting power levels.

        Or it could just be wind.

      • Actually it was a Mexican. You didn't realize that we had made it that far did ya! To hell with finding water on Mars, we already have a Taco truck with the best horchata in the solar system there waiting for NASA.
    • by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @04:50PM (#26906929)
      if only NASA had sent a homeless fellow with some newspaper...
  • How much longer? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @04:16PM (#26906379)

    How much longer can this thing go? I mean, it was "designed" to only go a few months, and we are years beyond that. Anyone have a pool on when it will really stop working?

    • Re:How much longer? (Score:4, Informative)

      by al0ha ( 1262684 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @04:18PM (#26906397) Journal
      Yep - there are pools at JPL and Caltech. Go Beavers!
    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @04:24PM (#26906485)

      Rule 1 of engineering: Underestimate your estimates.
      The thing was designed to run for years. However they gave it a 90 Day limit to save their butts if it breaks in 85 days. as well the mission spec was for 90 days, so they made sure it would last that 90 days as much as possible. It is not like you going to put up a million dollar probe and skimp on parts. You are going to make it as robust as possible as estimating 90 days of operation in the unknown is quite hard.

    • Anyone have a pool on when it will really stop working?

      The way this things are going, that's something best handled here [].

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      How much longer can this thing go? I mean, it was "designed" to only go a few months, and we are years beyond that. Anyone have a pool on when it will really stop working?

      They thought the dust would clog the solar panels so that it would be mechanically intact but powerless in three months. Using that to figure out how long it'll last now is like trying to figure out how long a laptop will last on AC power based on how long you thought it'd last on battery power. The short answer is until something breaks, it's mechanical and hasn't been to service for five years but trying to say exactly when is like trying to predict when you'll need a tow truck for your car. Even if it's

    • Windows 7 will be dead before the rovers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by buserror ( 115301 ) *

      I think there should be a nobel of engineering or something similar, given to whomever designed that rover.

      It /never/ happens in real life that you can get away with designing a piece of equipment that outlasts it's fail-by-date by so much. In most companies nowayday, these guys would be in trouble !

      It sort of ought to be encouraged somehow...

    • One of Spirit's front wheel motors has stopped, so the drive it backwards.
      Opprtunity's arm wont completely contract, so they drive it loose instead of docked.
      Both of the RAT grinders have warn out, so they cannot drill millimeters into rock like they used to.
      The camera lenses are dusty. Sometime the wind cleans them up a bit.

      I am sure there are others.
  • Back in action, let's go for another 4 years...
  • We've proved that the budget rover designs have been the most successful designs we've sent to another planet.

    They've been resourceful and far why haven't we expanded on the design.

    I think we should package up some new rovers. Slightly larger with additional equipment. With one additional design feature. A means to self-clean it's own solar panel.

    This way the unit could theoretically operate for near perpetuity.

  • Boy, those things were built!
  • ... there are no homeless people on Mars.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @05:55PM (#26907975)
    The Mars Science Lander is two years late and a billion dollars over budget because it has developed lots of new technology. It was supposed to launch during the 2009 optimal planetary configuration, but will have to wait until the 2011 one. The next lander uses a nuclear source and rocket landing instead of airbags. I'm a little fearful all the new stuff may not work as planned. I am also fearful NASA budgetary troubles may still kill it.
  • Rover Driver Blog (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TrekkieTechie ( 1265532 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @06:20PM (#26908475)

    At night, there's a small red light in the sky. On that light lives four hundred pounds of thinking metal sent from Earth. I tell that metal what to do, and it does it.

    Anyone interested in the Mars Exploration Rovers' mission should check out Mars And Me [], the unofficial diary of a Mars rover driver. Scott Maxwell is blogging his daily work at JPL exactly five years later. A very interesting and well-written look at the day-to-day operations of a truly amazing scientific expedition.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker