Feeds

Mars rover seeks perfect suntan spot to survive winter

Opportunity's solar panels get juiced up on Greeley Haven slopes

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

NASA's ageing Mars exploration rover Opportunity is heading for Greeley Haven for the winter - a site with a sun-facing slope to catch the meagre rays of our star on its solar panels.

False colour image of Greeley Haven

False colour image of Greeley Haven taken by Opportunity. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ

The thick layer of dust on Opportunity's electricity-generating panels means it has to stay in the sun as much as possible to get enough power to survive the Martian winter, which is why the space agency has sent it to this particular outcrop.

Before this Martian year, Opportunity didn't need to take any precautions for the several months of shortened daylight before and after the southern winter solstice on March 30, but this time around the panels will be too dirty to pick up enough light.

The winter site is named after planetary geologist Ronald Greeley, who was a member of the science team for the Mars rovers, and as well as keeping Opportunity juiced up, it will also give the rover some science stuff for its robotic arm to look at.

Opportunity will be conducting a radio-science investigation of the interior of Mars, studying tiny wobbles in the planet's rotation to figure out more about its core. The rover will also inspect the mineral composition of the outcrop and record a full-circle, colour panorama of the scenery.

Greeley Haven is on the Cape York segment of the rim of the Endeavour Crater, which Opportunity reached five months ago after a three-year journey from Victoria Crater, which it studied for two years.

Neither Opportunity nor its fellow rover Spirit were ever meant to last this long, having both completed their primary missions in 2004.

Last year, Spirit got stuck after losing two of its six wheels and wasn't able to make it to a sunny place to wait out the winter. NASA ended attempts to contact the rover in May, when it was clear the plucky trundler hadn't survived the icy temperatures.

While Opportunity battles on, NASA's focus is also on its brand shiny new rover, Curiosity, which is headed to the Red Planet at the moment and is expected to reach its destination in August this year. ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Vote now for LOHAN's stirring mission patch motto
Does the shed actually know no bounds, or what?
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.