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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Look how clean Opportunity is now!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

09-04-2014 10:28 CDT

Topics: pretty pictures, pics of spacecraft in space, Opportunity, amateur image processing, Mars Exploration Rovers, spacecraft, Mars

You've heard from both Larry Crumpler and A. J. S. Rayl recently about how Opportunity has enjoyed a cleaning event that's left her solar panels sparkling in the sunshine. Here's a rover deck panorama to corroborate that story, newly processed by James Sorenson. I love how the position of the rover mast's shadow across the deck perfectly implies its presence and even height. (Opportunity, of course, cannot see her own camera mast.)

Opportunity deck panorama, sol 3611-3613 (March 22-24, 2014)

NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell / ASU / James Sorenson

Opportunity deck panorama, sol 3611-3613 (March 22-24, 2014)
While climbing Murray Ridge, Opportunity enjoyed a major cleaning event that left the rover's solar panels cleaner than they had been in many years, powering the rover up for science.

Compare the photo with this one, taken last Mars winter, with the rover nearly camouflaged against the dusty ground:

Opportunity Deck Pan, December 2011 (sols 2811-2814)

NASA / JPL / Cornell

Opportunity Deck Pan, December 2011 (sols 2811-2814)
Opportunity used its Pancam to take the images combined into this mosaic view of the rover. The downward-looking view omits the mast on which the camera is mounted. Heading into its fifth Martian winter, Opportunity's solar panels were dustier than ever, requiring the team to choose an area of high northward tilt to increase power.
See other posts from April 2014


Or read more blog entries about: pretty pictures, pics of spacecraft in space, Opportunity, amateur image processing, Mars Exploration Rovers, spacecraft, Mars


TimR: 04/09/2014 08:03 CDT

Ah, finally a before and after shot in one webpage. Thanks. Looks great ... less filling. In 2003, NASA estimated that two factors would limit the lifetime of MER Rovers: 1) the dust build up on the panels and 2) the low sun angles in Winter. When I supported MER software development, it was clear to me that the sun angle issue was not the problem. JPL could use slopes or rocks to angle the panels towards the winter sun. The question was how long would it take for dust to collect. JPL had estimates and it pointed to on the order of a couple hundred days. We learned otherwise and these incredible dust cleaning events so clearly so how dynamic the Martian environment is. Without these cleaning events, eventually a Winter would have arrived for which no propping on a slope would have sufficed. The MER missions would have ended years ago. We need more than one petition to send to law makers in Washington. Create a second one that specifically addresses cancellation of MER and other programs.

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