More bad, bad news. Just two days ago Phoenix Mars Lander sent his last words, and NASA announced the end of the mission because of a storm that covered its solar panels with Martian dust. Today, we have learnt that the Mars Spirit rover may be dying too because exactly the same problem. In fact, according to Bruce Banerdt—the mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and part-time Hulk impersonator—he may be dead already:
This is a very dangerous time. If we don't hear from it on Thursday, we'll be extremely concerned.
The culprit, again: A sudden dust storm over the Martian equatorial plains. This storm has covered the solar panels during the last days and, as a result, the Mars Spirit only produced 89 watt-hours last weekend. This is half the amount it needs to keep functioning. Scientists at the JPL have turned off heating for many instruments in the hope that the rover's batteries won't be completely depleted.
In this case, however, the Mars Spirit rover is well passed its expiry date. With five years working in the planet, the mission has vastly exceeded even the wildest dreams of NASA's researchers. Also, keep in mind that Spirit's twin brother—Opportunity—is still working at the other side of the planet.
But still, seriously NASA, how can you send things that run on solar power to the dustiest planet in the Solar System and forget to include some kind of Windex cleaning device all the gear? Couldn't you guys add some kind of mini-Roomba to crawl the panels of the next one? [NASA and Daily Mail and Posts by Phoenix Mars Lander at Gizmodo]
Obligatory dust-related kick-arse song here: