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NASA Space Science Technology

Thick Dust Alters NASA Mars Rover Plans 97

coondoggie writes "NASA's long-running Mars rover Opportunity is getting ready for the harsh Martian winter, but this year for the first time in its nearly eight-year history it needs a sunnier location to continue its work. NASA said the rover, which depends on solar power for energy, is sitting just south of Mars' equator and has worked through four Martian southern hemisphere winters. Being closer to the equator than its now defunct twin rover, Spirit, Opportunity has not needed to stay on a Sun-facing slope during previous winters but now its solar panels carry a thicker coating of Martian dust than before."
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Thick Dust Alters NASA Mars Rover Plans

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  • Windshield wipers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Caerdwyn ( 829058 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @07:30PM (#38604700) Journal

    Windshield wipers! My kingdom for windshield wipers!

    A good guess is that, going forward, all new Mars landers will have either a wiper system or the ability to compress Martian atmosphere and then go POOF on the solar panels. Yes, more weight, but when the payoff is potentially many more functional months of service, it'd be worth it.

  • What if: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:13PM (#38605502)

    What if the martian winds were to un-bury spirit's wheels and make it mobile? Would it start sending data back to earth? Has it ever stopped sending data?
    It would be super cool if they were able to get it working again with a little help from the martian environment.

  • Re:Windshield wipers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @09:44PM (#38605716)

    One would think it would be like removing the extremely fine dust from an LP.

    Back in the day, there was this thing called an "Ion Gun".
    (Example product) [lptunes.com]

    It basically compresses and slightly ionizes atmospheric gas, then directs it at the surface to be cleaned. The electrical charge in the gas causes the dust to be electrostatically repelled from the surface, and the forced air blows it off.

    Surely such a toy could be attached to one of the arms of future solar powered rovers for periodic cleaning purposes, and even possibly for electrochemical experiments?

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.