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Is NASA's Mars Rover Doomed to Fail?



"There were more than a few people around at the time, which surprised me that the team has not yet made any official statement about what's going on," she said when we spoke on early Thursday. "The people who have heard about it in the Opportunity Team are like, what's going on, and get no response from anyone, it's making everyone a little worried."

This casual employee said the rumors had caused several of her colleagues to do so Tweet to Opportunity earlier this week to show the JPL leadership that the rover is popular and popular to the public. From tuesday tweets appeared with #WakeUpOppy and #SaveOppy. A JPL spokesman told me that they did not know what triggered the sudden grassroots campaign.

"The campaign received a lot of attention from the supervisors," said Opportunity employee. "Which is good, that was the intention."

When the new recovery plan was released, there was "a lot of anger, some sadness, some shock" among the members of the team, she said.

NASA officials came to this conclusion because of their understanding of how opaque the Martian atmosphere is, a measure known as Tau. The larger this value, the less sunlight penetrates the atmosphere to reach the surface. Before it became quiet, Opportunity's instruments recorded a dew of 1

0.8 – far greater than the usual dew in the southern hemisphere, which oscillates between 1 and 2. (In the last major dust storm on Mars in 2007, the dew barely surpassed 6.

Without opportunity, NASA has relied on an instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to perform measurements of the dew less accurate, but they provide good estimates: Tau is now at 1.7 after the orbiter's last measurements, and JPL officials believe that when that level drops to 1.5, enough sunlight should be peeking through the atmosphere Then they will start the clock.

Former and current Opportunity team members and others say that the 45-day period is not long enough to capture the potential of atmospheric phenomena known as dust-cleaning events, In the past, dust devils swept away the grains from Opportunity's solar fields, and sometimes the wind was so effective that the panels returned to their original glory

"I think our best hope has nothing to do with the amount of dust in the sky. I think our best hope for the rover is when it gets windy, the dust is burning away, "says Mark Lemmon, an associate professor at Texas A & M University, who works on the opportunity rover's daily operations." That's Opportunities happen reliably and repeatedly with Opportunity, and the season is upon us. "Such dust-washing events are common between November and the end of January.

Engineers performed simulations that predicted Opportunity's current conditions, but they can not explain how much dust, if any, remains on Opportunity's solar panels. "Initial results [of the simulations] suggest that if dew is below 1.5 there is a chance, depending on the dust load on the panels, of hearing about Opportunity" says Matt Golombek, project scientist for the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, covering the opportunity and the now-defunct spirit. " e estimate the dust in the atmosphere, we have no idea how much dust is on the plates. "


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