Saturday, July 21, 2007

Opportunity Lost?


Walking such a jagged edge is a danger on its own. The risk of collapse would seem a fatal one for a vehicle with a life-span of a mere 90 days; especially when the wee mechabugger has already survived 10x that long in its explorations of the red planet.

As it turns out though, a less controllable, natural occurrence - one which has previously helped prolong the Mars Landers' mission - could well be the final Decider on this N.A.S.A mission's timetable. When the Martian winds rise, lifting dust to soar at sunlight blinding heights, the outer limits of Opportunity's ability to maintain its electrical functions may finally be reached.

Mars Rover Struggles to Weather Severe Dust Storm

By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 21, 2007; Page A02

The hardy Mars rover Opportunity is struggling to stay alive amid a severe and long-lasting Martian dust storm -- posing the greatest threat so far to the unexpectedly long-lived vehicle.

The series of dust storms has blocked 99 percent of the direct sunlight that the rover needs to generate power, and on Wednesday, the panels were generating only 148 watt hours -- barely enough to keep the vehicle functioning. Without power to warm its electronic instruments and computers, the rover would grind to a halt for good.

"We're rooting for our rovers to survive these storms, but they were never designed for conditions this intense," said Alan Stern, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.


There's still a chance she'll make it through this storm, though the odds do finally seem against it. None the less, here's to a job well done, and hope for more to come.

16 comments:

  1. Go Rover, go Rover!

    Shake it off, babybot.

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  2. I remember being very excited about them putting those things on Mars (something from HERE actually moving around on another planet!!!).

    Next to Earth, Mars is my favorite planet.

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  3. Spirit still seems to have plenty of power; at least the story doesn't mention it one way or the other, so I'm takin' it as a good sign. {-: Shake it off, babybot, indeed!

    I would SOOO love to retire on Mars! I think I'm just a decade or two too old for that though. Guess in Earth orbit will have to suffice. :-D

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  4. Incremental and slow progress, but progress none the less. This is another in a line of "Henry the Navigator" explorations that will keep going outward. The pictures of the sunsets and sun rises from Mars have been great.

    Thanks for reminding us about the mission, Michael.

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  5. By the way, I wouldnt retire there. Mars aint the kind of place to raise your kids, in fact, its cold as hell.

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  6. Heheh... Barring any inventions/discoveries within the "miraculous" category, I've no doubt it will be centuries before we develop terraforming skills to make the surface of Mars inhabitable sans environment suits/enclosures. I DO, however, believe we already have the technologies, if not quite the skill, to construct eminently livable colonies upon the red planet, our moon or in orbit about the Earth.

    Whether or not we choose to develop that tech rationally or not is an whole other question...

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  7. Oh yeah: Spirit is quite actually facing the same predicament as Op. {sigh}

    Hang in there wee bots!

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  8. Michael... Didn't realize you'd written this post when I put mine up on Sunday. Great minds and all that...

    Wouldn't it be great if all space exploration was this successful. Look at Cassini/Huygens...another astounding mission. We can obviously do it right--just need to emulate what was done on these outstanding projects.

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  9. Great minds and all that...

    Couldn't agree more, my amphibious friend! {-;

    With the rest, either. It took me a while to let my love of the idea of manned launches settle down enough to see the incredible amount of Really Good Science which can be done sans Apes on Board. Doesn't mean I don't still want that retirement villa on the shores of the Sea of Tranquility (or preferably on Mars, as stated above) but now I can't help but acknowledge how much more we can get done without letting our biological components get in the way.

    It's all for humanity, whether or not humans are physically taking those first, small steps.

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  10. 1.Oh... we can go screw up Mars when Earth is ruined beyond our use?

    2.Of course only the super rich could go. Maybe thats the plan!

    3.Bains we need a movie with rich people (like Burns!) AND zombies AND Mars!

    4.I did better on my zombie survival by the way, and I think its because you smoke and of course that means I could beat yer arse. Smokers are just zombie food waiting to happen.Sitting ducks, friend. Sitting ducks.

    5.Of course the yuppie zombies will want organic brains...

    6.Whole Foods?

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  11. The thing 'bout #1 is, first we gotta fix it up. Then we can screw it up. See?

    6.Whole Foods?

    Sure beats the half variety.

    :-p

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  12. I am officially volunteering to join the first colony on Mars. Get me the f*ck out of here.

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  13. EXcellent! We'll definitely be needing Teachers!

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  14. Wow, I had missed this story entirely. Go, bots, go!

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  15. I'd take a job as a sewer cleaner to get a place on that gig!

    Red skies at night! Oh Ho!!!

    errr, well, you know what I mean. {-:

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