Little rovers survive dust storms on Mars: NASA

Gusts of wind have cleared dust from the solar collectors on one of two robot rovers on the surface of Mars and both have awakened from the sleep NASA put them into, the space agency said.

Little rovers survive dust storms on Mars: NASA
Gusts of wind have cleared dust from the solar collectors on one of two robot rovers on the surface of Mars and both have awakened from the sleep NASA put them into, the space agency said.

It said Opportunity was now preparing to drive into the half-mile diameter Victoria Crater next week and Spirit had climbed onto a formation called Home Plate, a plateau of layered bedrock.

The rovers have been operating for more than three years, although they were only designed to last three months.

"These rovers are tough. They faced dusty winds, power starvation and other challenges -- and survived," NASA's Alan Stern said in a statement.

Martian dust storms blocked so much sunlight in July that researchers worried the robots would run completely out of power and die. They put them into a low-energy mode.

Now the skies are clearing and wind gusts have removed some of the new buildup from Opportunity, NASA said.

Some equipment, such as a spectrometer, may not work.

"If the dust cover or mirror is no longer moving properly, we may have lost the ability to use that instrument on Opportunity," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University in New York, who is principal investigator for the rovers' science instruments.

"It would be the first permanent loss of an instrument on either rover. But we'll see."

Reuters
Last Mod: 10 Eylül 2007, 15:39
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