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Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Peter Kline, Dec 22, 2004.
.... and at the fringes of our planetary system:
It's been a great year for planetary science. I never imagined that the Mars rovers would still be alive when the Huygens probe is launched. Here's hoping that the launch of the Huygens probe will be a kickoff to another remarkable year of discovery.
It's definitely an exciting time for space exploration. I hope everything with the Huygens probe goes well. It's going to be fun to see the pictures of Titan below the haze, hopefully on January 15th.
I've also been continuing to watch the progress of the Mars rovers. I too am amazed that both are still working so well. I've read that Spirit is getting about 400 watt/hours of power now, down from 900 at the beginning of its mission. Opportunity, on the other hand, while it was down to about 500 watt hours, has gone up recently, and has even come close to having its original 900 watt hours of power. Something has been cleaning off its solar panels. Has anyone read where NASA plans on driving Opportunity after it visits its heatshield? If Spirit lasts long enough, I think it would be neat if they could drive to the wall of the crater, though I don't hold any illusions that it would actually last that long.
Huygens has been released from Cassini, and should hopefully be on an uneventful coast to Titan. I'm curious about how much light will be on Titan when it gets into the atmosphere. How clear will the images of Titan be? I was reading a bit about Huygens, and the imagers are pretty low res, something like 190x250 pixels.
I imagine NASA will eventually launch a specialized orbiter/lander to Titan, though probably not until after the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter is launched, and that won't happen until at least 2011.
I wish they could put out some form of light reflecting satellite to help recharge the batts on the mar's rovers. It would be nice to have the ability to keep these toing for years/decades so the world can learn so much more and possibly be the stepping stone of future colonization.
The rovers cannot last forever, even with what you propose - which is impractical. Dust is the major culprit. It gets on to the solar panels, into the gears, equipment, etc. The batteries inside can only be rechraged so many times before they give out. Also, the rovers will have done exactly what they were designed to do. Staying on the surface much longer won't yield any additional science. Back here at JPL they have years and years of analysis and study to do. If there are martians, perhaps we could outsource their participation and have them service the vehicles, however.