Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Opportunity's Trip Into Victoria Crater Delayed

The Mars rover, Opportunity was expected to make its voyage into Victoria Crater, but an ongoing dust storm has delayed this endeavour.

Dust storms block out sunlight, which not not allow the solar panels on the rovers to receive produce energy. With a lack of energy, the rovers are not able to move. Storms like these also coat the panels on the rovers so even if the dust storm stops, there still might be dust settled on the panels and blocks sunlight from reaching the panels.

Image Credit: NASA

This is the worst storm yet faced by both Spirit and Opportunity. Opportunity's solar panels energy went from 765 watt-hours to 402 watt-hours. Steve Squyres a principal investigator at Cornell University said, "While this only represents enough dust to coat the planet to about the thickness of a human hair, it is enough to decrease the brightness of the noon sun by 96 percent compared to a completely clear atmosphere."

The storm will continue for about another week and Opportunity's descent into Victoria Crater will be delayed for several days. Rover operators have cut back on activity to conserve power.

John Callas, Mars Exploration Rover project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, "We are keeping an eye on this as we go forward, but our entry into Victoria Crater will be delayed until no sooner than July 13."

Original Article: JPL News Release - Dust Delays Mars Crater Entry

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