Friday, September 7, 2007

Mars Rovers Survive Vicious Dust Storms

The Mars rovers stretched and unfurled equipment for the first time since inclement weather on Mars forced them into hibernation to save them. June and July were especially tough months for the Rovers. To prove technical nap time was refreshing, an enthusiastic Opportunity team is going to explore a nearby huge crater named Victoria. Spirit is hobbled with the loss of a wheel, but will contribute to exploring the geology of Mars.

But before Opportunity can begin its crater descent, scientists on Earth will check the health of two vital instruments to ensure the months-long Martian dust storms haven't crippled their ability to collect data.

The dust woes of Opportunity and Spirit began in late June, when astronomers spotted growing dust storms on the red planet's surface. The storms swelled to blot out much of the sunlight on the planet's surface, leading some mission managers to worry that the solar-powered rovers could starve from lack adequate energy supplies.

Spirit and Opportunity are playing technology laden winter bears with required sleepins, when bears just shut down physically and emerge in the spring really hungry, slimmed down and a bit cranky. The Martian dust storms are fierce and there is concern bits of sand and microscopic bits of dust may impact the mirror and other sensitive solar energy equipment, affecting their ability to operate. Both solar powered Rovers have lasted so far beyond their extra life span that anything we get now are truly bonus space goodies. Both rovers are due to examine more of the terribly cold and forbidding Red Planet once NASA's JPL clears them after their lengthy technical physicals. Squyres, head of the Rover team, said aloud this may be the one and only and last shot for Opportunity to explore as it traverses the crater. What a way to go.

Phoenix Mars Lander is sending back its first pictures after dropping into the Martian orbit. A May 2008 landing for Phoenix is expected in a Norther Polar region. Right now, its taking pictures of itself.

Steven Squyres wrote a book detailing the Mars Rover mission. Now out in paperback, the books is Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity and the Exploration of the Red Planet.

The software used to power the Rovers is discussed and debated in lessons learned from the Rover mission. It is a magnificent behind the scenes look at the travails of the software architecture of the Rover missions. Martian Principles for Successful Enterprise Systems: 20 Lessons Learned from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission by Ronald Mak, the senior architect and lead developer.

1 comment:

kj said...

New look to the site. I like it, makes you think how wonderful the world can be.