A Windy Day on Mars Gives Spirit an Energy Boost

On Mars, there are no car washes, no windscreen wipers, no rain, no fans... you get the picture... (NASA)
On Mars, there are no car washes, no windscreen wipers, no rain, no fans... you get the picture. (NASA)

By far the biggest difficulty for robotic operations on the Martian surface are Sun-blocking dust storms. Not only do red-tinted dust clouds block the Sun from penetrating the atmosphere, the dust grains fall on solar panels, creating a layer of dusty sunscreen, reducing the amount of light falling on the photovoltaic cells. This is a special problem for long-term missions on the Red Planet. The rovers Spirit and Opportunity have been pottering around in the Martian regolith for over five years, mission planners had little idea their tough explorers would live much beyond their designed 3 month lifespan; long-term accumulation of dust was of no concern… until now.
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