Wed, Dec 12, 2007
Racing The Clock To Reposition Rover For Martian Winter
It's a race against the clock... at 10 mm/second. NASA engineers
are becoming concerned the Mars Spirit Rover may miss a deadline to
reposition itself in time for the Martian winter. If the craft
cannot be parked with its solar panels aimed at the sun by
Christmas, it risks starving its batteries beyond the point of
"It's scramble right now because we're losing sunlight," rover
project manager John Callas told The Associated Press.
Both rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, fell victim to Martian dust
storms this summer which coated their solar arrays... reducing
their energy-generating capabilities to less than 50 percent.
Winds have since helped clear the dust from Opportunity, but
Spirit hasn't done as well. Program officials say Spirit's solar
panel efficiency could drop to 30 percent this winter.
If the craft can't maneuver to a sunny spot and angle its panels
to the optimum sun angle for recharging during an expected seven
months of dormancy, it may be lost. Right now, Spirit's battery is
being recharged so slowly that it must rest one day after each
move, and time is running out.
The twin Mars rovers have outlived their intended 90-day mission
plans many times over, and continue to make discoveries of great
value to scientists. As ANN reported, NASA
extended both rovers' missions a fifth time in October.
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