Friday, January 24, 2014

Mars Rover for ten years on "Red Planet" -

Mars Rover for ten years on “Red Planet”

“Opportunity” is not forgotten

Also a Mars robot shows signs of aging. But despite arthritis and problems with saving information the little rover “Opportunity” always provides new discoveries. Exactly ten years he is on the “Red Planet”.

By Martin Ganslmeier, NDR Radio Studio Washington

Michael Meyer, chief scientist of NASA, can not exactly remember the landing of “Opportunity”: packed in thick air bag hit the Rover 25 January 2004 on Mars.

“The airbags made sure that he bounced several times before he really came to a halt,” says Meyer. Then drove “Opportunity”, the solar wings and put the first inch back on the Red Planet.

“No one would have expected”

At the time, NASA was hoping that the little rover would hold three months and one kilometer to travel. Ten years later, running “Opportunity” and still has almost 40 kilometers behind. “No one would have expected at the time: That a Mars rover even after ten years, still works – and very productive,” said John Callas, manager of the Rover program


“Opportunity” is considerably smaller than its high-tech successor “Curiosity”, who is traveling on the other Mars-half. Also has “Opportunity” no laser on board. But he already has five Martian crater explored and 170,000 images returned to Earth.

After ten years he was suffering under natural age-related wear and tear, says Callas. Like other seniors he had sometimes problems with saving information as well. And: “The control right front clamps The robot arm has arthritis and two of scientific devices no longer work…”

Nevertheless, the little rover always provides new discoveries. He recently joined the edge of a large crater on the far oldest Martian rocks. The analysis showed that before 3.7 billion years water must have flowed over them. That there was once water and thus the opportunity for primitive life on Mars, already one of the first discoveries of “Opportunity” had shown that small stones, which were called “blueberries” because of their shape. They turned out to be iron oxides – also an indication of a water-containing environment


2020, there could be tight for the little pioneer

As long as the Rover goes on like this, so long hold on the space agency to him, promises NASA scientist Steve Squyres. Menacing as the infirmities of age “Opportunity” are already the budget constraints of NASA: $ 14 million per year cost of operating the rover


2016 will send a drilling vehicle “Insight” on the “Red Planet”, to explore the interior of Mars NASA. 2020 followed with even more high tech a Rover. In times of tight budgets, NASA could then be tight for “Opportunity”, the small pioneer among rovers.

Stand: 25.01.2014 03:13 clock

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