News / Science & Technology

    NASA Rover Takes 'Winter Vacation' to Power Solar Panel

    This artist's rendering provided by NASA shows a replica of the Mars Rover, Opportunity, on the surface of Mars.
    This artist's rendering provided by NASA shows a replica of the Mars Rover, Opportunity, on the surface of Mars.

    NASA has sent its Mars Rover, Opportunity, on its first winter working vacation since the solar-powered vehicle began exploring the red planet’s surface several years ago.

    Similar to humans who travel to sunny locations during the winter, the robotic rover will spend the next several months literally soaking up sunlight. The U.S. space agency, NASA, says it positioned Opportunity with its solar panel angled toward the Sun to make sure the rover will have enough power to last for the duration of the long Martian winter.    

    Mission scientists say it was not necessary for Opportunity to be kept in a Sun-facing position the previous four Martian winters because its landing site just south of the planet's equator gets relatively strong sunlight year-round. They decided to use the maneuver this year because the rover’s solar panels were caked with an unusually thick coating of dust.   

    NASA says Opportunity is sitting on the slope of a rocky outcrop that lies along the rim of Mars’ 22-kilometer-wide Endeavour Crater. Scientists say they have identified a variety of interesting features for the rover to investigate with its robotic arm while its solar panels store up energy from the Sun. NASA says it does not plan to move the golf cart-sized vehicle more than a meter or two until June or July when Opportunity will resume its current mission exploring Endeavour Crater.

    Opportunity’s twin rover, Spirit, was at a landing site farther from the equator, and spent all three of its Martian winters tilting it solar panel toward the Sun. Spirit is no longer functioning. It stopped communicating with mission control on Earth in March 2010.  

    Even though the rovers landed on Mars in early 2004, they are now just entering their fifth Martian winter. That is because one year on Mars - the time it takes the planet to make one complete a solar orbit - is nearly twice as long as one year on Earth. That is, it takes Mars the equivalent of 687 Earth-days to make one lap around the Sun, while the Earth's solar orbit is complete in 365 days.

    NASA says the site where Opportunity is spending the winter is informally named “Greeley Haven,” in honor of late planetary geologist Ronald Greeley, who was a member of the science team for the Mars rovers and other missions. Greeley died in October. Rover scientists hope to have the name made official.

    NASA launched the Mars rovers Opportunity and Spirit in 2003. Their separate missions exploring the Martian surface were only scheduled to last for three months - until April 2004 - but both rovers continued operating for many years longer. NASA launched its newest Mars rover, Curiosity, in late November 2011. It is scheduled to touch down on the Martian surface in August.

    Mars is one-third the size of the Earth. It is the fourth of eight planets in our solar system. Mars orbits the Sun between the Earth and the massive gas-giant planet, Jupiter.

    The U.S. space agency is exploring Mars to learn more about its geological structure, climate and environment, as well as to search for evidence whether the planet had a habitable environment billions of years ago, before the loss of its magnetic field and atmosphere turned it into the dry, dusty, frozen world it is today.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora