NASA Releases Dirty Photos of Spirit Rover Solar Panels

Hey Pig Pen. Yeah, you, the Mars Spirit Rover with the red Martian dust all over your solar panels. We're filing a post on a bathtub later today, so why don't you take the hint and use one? What's that? You're millions of miles away and potable water may or may not be somewhere on the planet you're currently exploring? Oh, well, in that case, pray for another wind storm or something, because these filthy before and after pics mean only about 1/3 of the Sun's light is getting through to power your electronics. NASA's plea for a sensor-cleaning interstellar dust storm is after the break.


Says NASA, via its Jet Propulsion Laboratory web page:

If Mars had an on-line Web site for ads, one of them might say something like this: "Wanted: Gentle space-age dust removal system to clean solar cells without leaving grit behind. Please direct inquiries to NASA."

NASA's Spirit rover has accumulated a lot of dust during four years of exploring Mars, especially following last year's dust storms. Only about one-third of incoming sunlight is able to penetrate dust on the rover's solar panels to be converted to electricity. As a result, Spirit is experiencing the lowest energy levels to date and accumulating a backlog of data waiting to be transmitted to Earth. The only available cleaning agent would be a timely gust of Martian wind!

On a more serious note, four years on planet (and one dodged budget cut ) is an incredible accomplishment. [NASA via Tom's Astronomy Blog ]