Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Dust storms cause trouble for rovers

According to a Space.com article, Mars is having one of its largest dust storms in 5 years. This is bad news for the rovers, because dust storms obscure the atmosphere, this reduce their solar power. In fact, the storm is so big, it's affecting power on both rovers, which if you recall, are on opposite sides of the planet. From the article:
Pictures from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show the storm is regional and includes several local areas of especially high dust activity. The storm has been moving eastward and toward mid-latitudes, and is now also causing an increase in atmospheric dust at Spirit's location, on the opposite side of the planet at Gusev Crater. Dust levels at Gusev remain much lower than at the Opportunity site, however.
Unfortunately, Opportunity is in for a wild ride. And this is also just before plans to drive Opportunity into Victoria Crater. Because of this storm, this mission will be delayed until no sooner than July 13. I sure hope Opportunity makes it. In fact, if Opportunity DOES make it, it will be much better off because the winds would have cleaned off its solar panels. Can our seemingly immortal rovers make it through this challenge?

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