Feeds

Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning

Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The winds on Mars have been scouring the surface of the Opportunity rover, and NASA says the plucky little robot is now cleaner than it has been in nearly a decade.

Opportunity selfie

What a difference a few months of wind makes (click to enlarge)

Back in January, Opportunity took a selfie using its panoramic camera, which showed that the rover was getting rather dusty. This is a bit of a problem, since Opportunity relies on solar panels for power, and NASA said the panels were only operating at about 60 per cent efficiency.

The rover has spent the Martian winter resting up and charging its lithium ion batteries, and during that sojourn things have been a tad windy in its locale; on Thursday NASA released a recent selfie taken by the rover showing it looking very clean indeed.

"In its sixth Martian winter, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity now has cleaner solar arrays than in any Martian winter since its first on the Red Planet, in 2005," the agency said. "Cleaning effects of wind events in March boosted the amount of electricity available for the rover's work."

The windy cleaning has been so effective that power generation has been boosted by more than 70 percent compared with two months ago, to more than 615 watt hours. The rover needs about 100W of solar power to function, so the clean means it's good to go for a long time yet.

Opportunity in clean room

Opportunity at its cleanest

It has been over a decade since Opportunity, and its sadly defunct twin Spirit, bounced down onto the Martian surface. Initially, NASA estimated that they would only last 90 days, an assumption made because the agency thought their solar panels would get covered in dust, as had been the case with the Sojourner rover that landed on Mars in 1997.

But Opportunity is a much larger vehicle than the tiny Sojourner, and its solar panels are relatively high up. The winds of Mars have proven quite effective at keeping the solar panels clean, which has contributed greatly to its extraordinary longevity.

With Martian days now getting longer in Opportunity's time zone, the rover is being sent up a nearby hillside dubbed Cape Tribulation to check out rock formations at the top which may hold some clues to Mars' watery past. The trip should take about two years, or longer if it finds any more Martian doughnuts along the way. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.