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.

5 comments:

angry ballerina said...

I don't know why but I actually keep reading this over and over.....

MichaelBains said...

Hmmm... If it's because of the story, sad thing is that, after reading a couple more stories this morning, I realize that it really is Both the rovers that are facing the same fate. They aren't all that far from one another and the dust storms are really that expansive.

We'll see...

That picture is what really captured my imagination, btw. It looks like an electron micrograph of a virus, but is actually about a kilometer across. Nature is one wicked mother, eh.

angry ballerina said...

Eh, yea it is. Are you in the states? You're using metric, I don't come across a lot of people who do. Their usually too lazy.

MichaelBains said...

Cleveland. And my conversion skills suck, but I read a lot and I'm trying. It also helps having a Serbian friend who's not shy about asking for conversion/translation help.

America's 2nd biggest failure, IMO, was QUITTING on the metric system back when I was in grade school. They started my gen out with it then gave up after less than two years. Pathetic parochialism and it's perhaps the #1 reason U.S. students are so far down on the achievement lists. Even more than lack of proper Educational funding, cuz it affects wealthier districts just as negatively as poor ones.

angry ballerina said...

yea, tell me about it, I'm trying my hardest to get use to using the metric system, it's not exactly easy....