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'Something' Cleaning Mars Rover

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the interplanetary-rose-royce dept.

Space 355

bluenirve writes "'Something' has been cleaning the solar panels of the Mars rover Opportunity. "NASA's Mars rover Opportunity seems to have stumbled into something akin to a carwash that has left its solar panels much cleaner than those of its twin rover, Spirit. A Martian carwash would account for a series of unexpected boosts in the electrical power produced by Opportunity's solar panels.""

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Can it please... (0, Troll)

Hot Summer Nights (771962) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172173)

... clean my ass?

Re:Can it please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172478)

No, but I'm sure Michael Sims would be happy to.

On Martian soil... (1)

slackingme (690217) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172178)

... dirt cleans you?

FP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172185)

aliens? fuck aliens. GNAA

Error... Someone sucks! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172187)

404 File Not Found
The requested URL (science/04/12/23/1929201.shtml?tid=160) was not found.

If you feel like it, mail the url, and where ya came from to pater@slashdot.org.

Gnus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172188)

I'm sure it's gnus. *nods firmly*

hmmm... (0)

spawnofbill (757153) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172189)

Maybe.... Wind? You'd think that NASA would know that mars does have an atmosphere, and therefore can produce some kind of wind, which could be blowing sand and dirt off of the panels.

would wind work (3, Informative)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172276)

We had gusts up to 98mph earlier this week and my car looks as dirty as ever

Re:would wind work (2, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172384)

> We had gusts up to 98mph earlier this week and my car looks as dirty as ever

I suspect the dirt that's covering your car is not much like the particulate on the rovers.

Re:would wind work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172452)

so, how are your fences?

Re:hmmm... (1)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172317)

You would think they would have built a wiper to sweap the dust off, or maybe some high pressure air hose or fan. Or thy could have added an ability to vibrate the dust off. We all know 'they could have' but they would have also needed approval for this, but they would not get approved because that would mean the project would run on for much longer, meaning more budget money, and no one wants a rover that last for 5 years on the surface. Its all politics, if the engineers had 100% say, they would have designed the bot to work on mars for 20-30years, even with dead batteries, just make it work in the day and smart software to know where its up to if it looses power.

Re:hmmm... (5, Insightful)

cmowire (254489) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172470)

No, it's more the case that the cost, primarily in weight, of adding the required fan, wiper, or other cleaning system outweighs the value added with more scientific instruments. And given that the panels are relatively fragile (remember, every gram of mass has a dollar amount attatched to it) you'd need to be awfully careful -- wipers are out.

Also, it's something else that can fail. Sure, it sounds like a good idea, but if you ruin the solar panels halfway into the base mission because it doesn't work, people start looking really dumb. Or if the shape of grains of martian soil is not quite the same as earth soil and it ends up not working. Or there's something else that might fail, you leave a backup for it out, and then look really stupid when that part fails and you've still got plenty of solar energy.

The biggest problem, of course, is that the designers of the probe are hamstrung by rather unreasonable launch costs that are showing little signs of getting better and are prevented by vast armies of rather stupid anti-nuclear-power whackos from using a 5 year power source. Oh yeah, and most of the NASA budget is reserved for a space shuttle that is far too expensive and has not been able to be retired and replaced due to a variety of issues.

But, in general, it's much better to get a different assortment of tools on a different probe in a completely different location every 2 years, with a chance to have design improvements, instead of having two massive probes that last for 5 years and can only be launched every 10 years.

Re:hmmm... (2, Informative)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172495)

Sheesh.

The engineers decided not to build something to shake off the solar panels, because that would make the darn thing heavier -- which woule mean they would have had to leave something else off.

Politics had nothing to do with it.

Re:hmmm... (2)

Bronz (429622) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172319)


Maybe.... You didn't read the article did you?

"At the time, the team speculated that wind may have swept the dust off the panels or frost may have caused it to clump, exposing more of the panels. ..."

Re:hmmm...but... (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172320)

Wind? You'd think that /.ers would know that mars does have an atmosphere, and therefore can produce some kind of wind, which could be blowing sand and dirt all over the panels.

Re:hmmm...but... (1)

MajorDick (735308) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172476)

Not just a little wind a LOT of wind with "storms" being clocked in excess of 200mph (Actually I think much higher)

Ill be honest I always wondered how the planned to keep the rovers upright if one of these storms ran accross the area

Or are the regional to mars , as in equitorial, polar what ?

Re:hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172333)

Nah, that's too logical of an explanation.

It must have been those damn Martians. First they decide to "sweep dust off of our rovers" just for the hell of it, now what are they going to do? I'm sick and tired of their jokes.

Are you going to steal our tin foil hats? Is that it? Is that what you want? I KNOW YOU'RE OUT THERE, COME AND GET MY STUPID HAT! I dare you.

Re:hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172374)

Well if the wind does carry the dust on to the panel, can you expect the same wind to carry it off the panel instead of add more?

Re:hmmm... (3, Informative)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172381)

Jeez, RTFA :-p That's exactly what they suggest.

Re:hmmm... (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172530)

Yes, that's a possible explanation, although the martian atmosphere is so much thinner than earth, so even with pretty strong wind speeds, it will do significantly less than on Earth.

Amazing (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172190)

First post.

o_0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172194)

Pesky Damn martians, washing our rovers, well its time to bomb them....

They looked for the dirt (5, Funny)

Adam9 (93947) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172195)

When NASA scientists had the rover examine its solar panels for dirt, it replied, "Nothing for you to see here. Please move along."

Re:They looked for the dirt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172469)

What's this "Nothing for you to see here. Please move along." thing anyway?

Yesterday's News. (4, Informative)

Vaevictis666 (680137) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172197)

Dupe from Yesterday [slashdot.org]

Re:Yesterday's News. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172223)

CmdrTaco's too busy reading Fark to notice these things...

Re: Yesterday's News. (5, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172254)


> Dupe from Yesterday

Yeah, but the panels are still being cleaned today!

Re: Yesterday's News. (5, Funny)

elmegil (12001) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172408)

Something is cleaning the editor's memory of the past. Too bad it doesn't work more quickly.

Re:Yesterday's News. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172286)

And to think people wonder why everyone doesn't pay money for Slashdot...

Re:Yesterday's News. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172295)

It was posted a month or two ago aswell...

Re:Yesterday's News. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172296)

Hmm. Yesterdays news didn't show up in my RSS viewer. How strange.
Thanks for the dupe :)

Wind maybe? (0, Redundant)

confusion (14388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172202)

Couldn't be unusually strong winds in that area at night, could it?

Nah, probably a martian.

Jerry
http://www.syslog.org/ [syslog.org]

Re:Wind maybe? (5, Interesting)

Control Group (105494) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172265)

The reason wind isn't the obvious answer it seems like is that the Martian atmosphere is so thin. I remember seeing (on Discovery HD, IIRC) a wind tunnel simulation NASA was doing to study dust devils on Mars. They set up the chamber at Martian atmospheric pressure, then cranked up a fan to blow some insanely high wind speed. The fine dust on the floor didn't even budge; there just wasn't enough air to make anything happen.

The only way they were able to replicate the observed dust devil effects was to toss larger pebbles into the chamber, kicking the dust up into the wind.

Anyway, the point is that wind is still the most probable cause, but it's not quite the obvious slam-dunk that it superficially seems.

Re:Wind maybe? (1)

bluenirve (470125) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172278)

Maybe, but Spirit's panels don't get clean. My guess: some martian has a crush on it.

Re:Wind maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172339)

Static build up during the day attracts dirt and particles, and during the night, when the machine shuts down most of the way the static charge bleeds away, and martian wind blows the dust off.

Re:Wind maybe? (1)

Botty (715495) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172345)

An unemployed smelly Martian hobo, that just comes along with a towel and a some window cleaner while the rover is stopped looking at rocks and just holds his hand out expecting some change? Like the hobos that wash your windows in the cities.

Even Mars has homeless (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172209)

Isn't it clear that homeless Martians have newspapers to clean the panels too?

That Martian is going to get pissed.... (5, Funny)

Neologic (48268) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172220)

That Martian is going to get pissed when the probe doesn't give him a tip.

Re:That Martian is going to get pissed.... (1)

SoSueMe (263478) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172328)

Martian squeegee=kids?

Re:That Martian is going to get pissed.... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172522)

Giuliani had to put all of them somewhere.

Just goes to show... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172225)

Women are from Mars.

Re:Just goes to show... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172323)

When was the last time you knew a woman to clean windows let alone solar panels?

Re:Just goes to show... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172475)

my wife is out on the roof cleaning the solar panels right now. that's why I love her!

Hmmm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172228)

Golgafrinchans maybe?

Nitrogen (3, Interesting)

panxerox (575545) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172232)

I've always wondered why they never put a little bottlie of compressed nitrogen on the rover with nozzels pointed at the panels. Press a switch on earth and pffftt! dust be gone!

Re:Nitrogen (4, Insightful)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172500)

Perhaps it's because an exploding bottle of nitrogen would probably total the probe. Always consider what failure of the doo-dad would do to the overall mission before including the doo-dad. Dirty solar panels are one thing, shredded panels is another.

Re:Nitrogen (-1, Troll)

upsidedown_duck (788782) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172529)


No, that would be too simple and cost effective.

Bum Martian window washer? (5, Funny)

signingis (158683) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172236)

Is NASA going to have a stinky, unwashed, unshaven martian approach the camera and ask for change?

I don't know why (3, Interesting)

eclectro (227083) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172240)


they just didn't put a windshield wiper with a mister on the rovers.

Then there would be water on Mars!

Re:I don't know why (1)

gnuman99 (746007) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172334)

Then there would be water on Mars!

s/would/is/

Mexicans... (0, Troll)

FIT_Entry1 (468985) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172241)

have made it all they way to Mars?

it's obviously love on mars (2, Funny)

swschrad (312009) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172246)

maybe one of the "lost" landers has a crush on opportunity ;) OK, enough slashdot, back to the egg nog....

Martian kids (0, Redundant)

artemis67 (93453) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172248)

Gotta watch out for those Martian kids and their squeegees. They always try to hustle a buck out of you at the stoplights.

You'd think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172249)

that NASA would have installed some sort of wiper, so that it could clean it's own solar panels in the first place.

Martian natives place bets on how far will it move (1)

thrad (829144) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172250)

.. and polish solar panels for extra enjoyment during nights ;-)

Beagle 2 (3, Funny)

piquadratCH (749309) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172257)

So THAT's what Beagle 2 is doing all the time up there...

does this meean... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172262)

Gays..... In....... Spaaaaace!

Great, just what we need... (1, Funny)

binderhead126 (809883) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172272)

There seems to be no intelligent life, but there are homeless martians who will clean your car for a buck. Go figure. Interplanetary capitalism is here to stay.

Rise of the Machines. (0, Redundant)

imehler (461005) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172274)

Intelligence has blossomed. Evolution has spawned. SkyNet decides that the rover would work better with window wipers. I for one welcome our new robot overlords. In other news: Martian super-robots have decimated mankind and taken over the earth.

I'm having the strangest sense of deju vu... (1)

Satcho (837947) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172275)

Weird.

The Martians (0, Redundant)

Delusional (574271) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172281)

The Martians are clearly a very tidy people.

Obviously Spirit wandered into a bad neighborhood where Martian bums keep wiping the panels with greasy rags that only make things worse.

Design (5, Interesting)

FiReaNGeL (312636) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172297)

NASA engineers decided not to put wipers on the solar panels, because it would have been too much trouble / added too much weight. I guess they're pretty happy with their decision now, with the 'unexpected' cleaning events...

Re:Design (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172428)

You can make them of carbon fiber, you know.

Those things could be just grams each.

Well.... (0, Offtopic)

old_skul (566766) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172304)

...I admit it. It's me.

Marvin the Martian... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172309)

Must have gotten a new squeegee for Hanukkah.
Funny I didn't realize Martians were Jewish.

Obligatory... :P (0, Redundant)

hakkikt (173329) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172312)

I, for one, welcome our new martian solar-cell cleaning overlords

can't... resist..the..tempta.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172315)

I for one welcome our new Martian rover cleaning Overlords!

(That horse has to be a nice bloody pulp by now)

I for one (0, Offtopic)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172335)

I for one welcome our new duplicate article posting overlords.

Hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172336)

Perhaps Marvin has been using a toned-down version of the Eludium Q-235 Explosive Space Modulator.

You didn't watch enough cartoons as a kid (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172438)

1958 - "Hare-Way to the Stars" [gargaro.com] - I have this on video! A Looney Tunes episode with Bugs Bunny. Marvin plans to blow up the Earth using the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator, and Bugs Bunny tries to stop him. Marvin, angry that "that creature" has stolen his space modulator, creates more Martians.
(stolen from the linked site, bolding mine)

NASA Planning? (-1, Offtopic)

Fruvous (776606) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172343)

You'd think that a multi-million dollar project would be able to produce something akin to a windshield wiper rather than just letting its little toy die and rust up there. Of course if it did start to rust that would mean there is water. Why is it that NASA seems to be relying on blind luck?

Re:NASA Planning? (2, Insightful)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172418)

Blind luck had no part in it. If you would have actually bothered to learn anything about the Rover project before back seat quarterbacking you would have quickly realized why they didn't build in wipers or some other mechanism.

However, since you didn't, I'll summarize in brief:

wipers--would increase weight and electrical requirements of the rovers, thereby decreasing lifespan. Also, the wipers themselves would most likely end up scratching the solar panels or embedding detritus into them, thus decreasing efficiency.

liquid--compressed air--soemthing else: weight, and dubious effectiveness. Would quickly run out anyway.

Re:NASA Planning? (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172453)

The other side to this as well as that they never actually expected the rovers to last as long as they have. These things have been huge successes, and have been operating very well despite a few wrinkles, long past the lifespan the engineers built them for.

Re:NASA Planning? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172434)

> You'd think that a multi-million dollar project would be able to produce something akin
> to a windshield wiper rather than just letting its little toy die and rust up there. Of course
> if it did start to rust that would mean there is water. Why is it that NASA seems to be
> relying on blind luck?

I'm assuming here that NASA wanted to minimize the number of things that could go wrong, and windshield wipers seem to fall into that category.

As it is they've got aliens cleaning it so what's the diff? NASA's vindicated, let's give them a billion dollars so they could deliver Big Macs and fries to the ISA!

I know what did it (0, Troll)

CompuSwerve (792986) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172344)

It was the Linux-powered orbiting brain lasers that cleaned the solar panels. See? Linux rocks!

Clouds...or not (1)

shadowsurfr1 (746027) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172358)

I remember hearing something about clouds on Mars. Extremely faint but still existant. It rains lightly, the panels get cleared.

It's either that or some wind came by.

Re:Clouds...or not (1)

JustinXB (756624) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172509)

Clouds have been seen before, but there isn't enough water vapor to rain. However, there has been frost in the early martain morning. I forget at which bot.

Business idea (1)

otisg (92803) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172363)

Hm, that's a good business idea.

out damn spot! (1)

OffTheLip (636691) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172372)

Lady Macbeth lives!

i know who it was... (1)

domenic v1.0 (610623) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172380)

...Marvin the Martian says all he wants in return for his service is a tri-quantum antiphotonical doomsday device to blow up earth. He deservesa tip at least...

Self Cleaning Panels (1)

ironicsky (569792) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172401)

I never figured that out... NASA spends billions of dollars building these rovers, why couldn't they spend a few hundred "earth dollars" and put car wiper blades on them... Oooh no, the power levels are dropping... [CLICK]... 10 minutes later... looks like our power levels are back up.

Odd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11172404)

The strangest part are the cigarette butts found in Opportunities ash tray. NASA has yet to explain that and the fact that someone keeps pushing Opportunity's front seat all the way back.

Drunken Martians? (0, Redundant)

OwlWhacker (758974) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172406)

Whatever the process, it has taken place while Opportunity was parked during the Martian night.

Upon closer inspection, scrawled in the dust on the solar panels, one can make out the words "CLEAN ME".

Tricks they play. (1)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172410)

Aliens.

Yes, it must quite definitely be aliens.

They captured the rover right when it landed and put it into a Star Trek style holodeck, where the landscapes we see are made up. They've been doing this to all the other equipment that we've sent there over the years, so they can avoid what they believe is an oncoming invasion, by showing us that Mars is not a habitable place.

Mars is actually quite nice, though. Its sky is green, not red as you see in the pictures, and its landscape is quite lovely, with red grass and red leaves on all the trees. Martian cities are built in huge self-contained buildings, isolated from one another by thousands of miles of thick forests, but connected by a vast network of underground tunnels which host train-like transportation vehicles.

If we found out, they fear, we will go over there, build lots of stuff all over the place, rape and pillage the environment, fill it with pollution and smog, and royally screw the circle of life as they know it. So they play tricks on our probes.

Applying Occam's Razor ... (1)

thelen (208445) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172443)

C'mon, dust devils? Super wind? Driving at a tilt? Clearly there's a simpler explanation [tvland.com] .

I hope they know how it works.... (1)

Fiz Ocelot (642698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172444)

I hope they don't expect this to be a freebie, or else don't expect all the hubcaps to be there next time!

I told them.... (4, Funny)

Audacious (611811) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172445)

I told those peskey custodians to NOT clean the rover while it was on the set!

Re:I told them.... (1)

meowsqueak (599208) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172536)

Yeah, the continuity person really stuffed up big time.

again? (0, Offtopic)

CowbertPrime (206514) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172456)

I saw stuff on this last month!

I for one... (1, Funny)

sacrilicious (316896) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172460)

... welcome our new solar-panel cleaning overlords.

It's nanobots! (1)

jarich (733129) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172465)

That blasted Wesley Crusher has been screwing around with his school projects again!

All hail... (1)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172477)

I, for one, welcome our new cleanliness-obsessed Martian overlords. It will put a lot of streetcorner windows washing bums out of jobs, though.

Mac and Me (1)

mollyhackit (693979) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172484)

Maybe it's McDonalds [imdb.com] that's how I keep my arteries clean.

wind (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172486)

don't forget that something had to put the dust on top of the solar panels in the first place, so the same thing can move it off the rover...

Wipers? (1)

Satcho (837947) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172506)

I been wondering why they didn't just design a slow moving wiper brush to clean the panels in the first place. One wipe every 30 days or as needed.

Mystery solved (2, Funny)

saddino (183491) | more than 9 years ago | (#11172521)

As evidenced by this image [yumahouse.com] .
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