Baronger's Scribblings

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday Space post ~ Spirit and Opportunity

Today is Sunday, the day when I post about astronomy, space and the exploration of the next frontier.

To start off the Space posts, I give you the Mars Rovers. These little robots really need a medal for going above and beyond the call of duty. The original mission was scheduled for three months. It has now been over two years, and though age is creeping up on them, they are still going.

The major problem that was supposed to shut the rovers down was the accumulation of dust on the solar panels. Why Nasa didn't come up with a fan, or some sort of wiper to get the dust off is beyond me. However, it seems that this problem was overcome by our spunky little rovers.

It is now heading into the Martian winter, when our little photovore Spirit will have limited energy. The last update on the Nasa page is from April 12, 2006. Spirit has reached a safe spot, and has settled down to hibernate through the long Martian winter. It is now at 'Low Ridge Haven,' and will spend the next eight months there. Though one of it's wheels is jammed, the little rover is showing the tremendous spirit for which it is named.

Opportunity however is on yet another quest. It is currently treking toward Victoria crater. It has spied an interesting and tantilizing bit of sedimentary rock that was exposed by the cosmic collision that created the crater. Hopefully it will achieve a great victory, and discover many new things.

It is just too bad that the two rovers are too far apart to realisticaly drive towards each other. It would have been nice to have a grand meet up. Though maybe when we do get to Mars, we can refurbish both rovers. Give them the power, to drive towards each other and meet again. Not only have the two contributed to our knowledge of Mars but also to our knowledge and expectations of rovers.

What we need is more long endurance space craft. We need rovers and observation satelites that can function for years if not decades. We need to make them so that we can even send repair and upgrade packages to them. Each one of these expeditions are costly and it would be nice if they lasted longer then they normaly do. Just think of the possibilities such as sending a repair and upgrade rover, to repair and upgrade the current rover or one of the satilites. Of course we would have to build rovers that are easily upgraded.

Next mission I say we send in several rovers and a repair/upgrade station to the same location. Multiple rovers so that if one rover got in trouble the other rovers could rescue it. A central station that will serve as a hub for the rover fleet. The station will have batteries, and a manipulator arm to repair and upgrade it's rover fleet. These will be big rovers, capable of long range exploration and have swap out mission modules. Until we get to Mars ourselves we will have our little robotic helpers.

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