The Mars rover Opportunity has put itself into a type of standby mode, and NASA managers are waiting for it to resume normal behavior. The rover may have sensed something amiss while it was waiting out the solar conjunction between Mars and Earth.
By Gregory MonePosted 12.11.2007 at 10:53 am 2 Comments
Two weeks. The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has until Christmas to make it to a nice, sunny slope of a nearby plateau, where it will point its solar panels towards the Sun and park for the winter. Unfortunately, Spirit can't just drive. A recent dust storm on the Red Planet drained much of the rover's energy, so at this point it needs a day of rest for every day of travel.
Engineers knew this energy problem would come eventually. Solar panels need to be clean and free of debris to soak up sunlight. But the Red Planet hasn't been cooperating. Those massive dust storms deposit a fine layer of dirt on the panels, vastly reducing their energy-generating capacity.
Some stiff winds blew much of the dust off Opportunity's panels, but Spirit hasn't been so lucky. Spirit is down to 42 percent capacity. Still, though, it's amazing that they're even roving at all at this point. They were supposed to run out of juice several years ago.—Gregory Mone
His show stopped producing new episodes nearly eight years ago, but it seems that Bill Nye the Science Guy (Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!) isn't submitting to B-level TV-celebrity status just yet. A mechanical engineer who studied at Cornell under Carl Sagan, Nye has much more under his belt than his beloved educational show; he engineered a hydraulic device for Boeing that is still used on the 747 and a special sundial used during the Mars Exploration Rover mission.
Now it seems he's busy touring small-town America, giving sold-out lectures for charity and ruffling a few feathers with criticisms of intelligent design in the process .