Here comes the Sun…

…doo dee doo doo…

 Images Articles 70812-Martian-Skies-Brighten-Slightly 1Anybody that’s been following space news is probably aware that things have been a bit rough for the MER rovers on Mars lately. In late June, a global dust storm kicked up on Mars, leaving the little solar-powered rovers little energy to do anything — even keep themselves warm.
Perspective: before the storm, the rovers were in top condition, with each generating about 700 watt-hours of power per day (so, enough to run an average light bulb for seven hours). During the worst of the storm in mid-July, Spirit was generating only 261 watt-hours, and Opportunity a mere 128 watt-hours. Not only did this mean that the rovers could do essentially no science, the low power levels also meant that Opportunity was at risk of essentially freezing to death.

So the good news is that things have now lightened up enough that both rovers are again charging up their batteries (Spirit is fully charged, Opportunity nearly so), and their temperatures are rising. The core electronics temperature on Opportunity, which got down to -37 Celsius (-35 degrees Fahrenheit) last week, is now up to a relatively toasty -33.4 degrees Celsius (-28.1 degrees Fahrenheit). Still, the rovers aren’t out of the woods yet — the sky will have to clear quite a bit more before the rovers can get on the move, and things could still get worse before they get much better.

And of course, as the dust settles out of the atmosphere, some of it settles on the rover solar arrays (big help, there…). So keep your fingers crossed…

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