Mars Robot Takes Up Stargazing

The Mars robot Spirit has been stuck on the side of a sand dune. Dust accumulations on its solar panels limit its power. Engineers ponder efforts to free the robot, while it sits idle.

What to do?

A stray gust of wind blew most of the dust off, giving Spirit more juice than its had in years. NASA scientists decided to give the robot a chance to do what most of us have done at one time or another - look up at the stars.


(Mars Spirit star view)

Most of the dots in the picture shown above are just hot pixels. However, Canopus shows clearly as a streak on the left side.

"Certainly, a month or more ago, no one was considering astronomy with the rovers," said Mark Lemmon, planetary scientist at Texas A&M University and member of the rover team. "We thought that was done. With the dust cleanings, though, everyone thinks it is better to use the new found energy on night time science than to just burn it with heaters."

"The Canopus images may become a regular occurrence, as a way to monitor dust and/or ice in the sky at night–much as we use Sun images in the day," Lemmon said. "For something like that, we can pick an aim (Canopus, Orion, etc.) and choose filters. We might use color filters to look for any differences that show up, or the clear filter for the most sensitive measurement. Star exposures can go up to 5.5 minutes (compare to 0.1-0.5 sec for a normal day image). We cannot track stars, so they trail after 10 seconds or so–as you see Canopus doing. In longer exposures, hot pixels and cosmic rays show up as points or cluster of light."

Scientists also use the images to look for evidence of night-time clouds, fog and haze that can be noted from the Martian surface.

If we are going to have automated robotic probes out there exploring the galaxy, like the biological package probes from Larry Niven's 1976 story A World Out of Time, we're certainly going to need stargazing robots.

From Universe Today.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/30/2009)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Man-Made Space Leaf Creates Oxygen From Water And Light
'What better purifying machine is there than... grass?'- George O. Smith, 1942.

Revisiting A Cloud City On Venus
I've been looking forward to something like this since 1980.

'Windowless Cockpit' Like Star Trek's Patent Applied For
Wait - you thought Sulu had a window?

NASA's Warp Speed Starship Design
'As Earth's faster-than-light spaceship hung in the void between galaxies...'- John W. Campbell

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Survival Seed Vault Low Cost Life Bank
'They existed in the Life Bank, as did virtually every plant...'

PoseiDrone Tentacled Undersea Robot Like HG Wells'
'Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first I did not see it as a machine...'

Bionic Hand Provides 'Lifelike' Sensations, Like Luke Skywalker's
'Take care, sir.'

Man-Made Space Leaf Creates Oxygen From Water And Light
'What better purifying machine is there than... grass?'

Robot With Broken Leg Learns To Walk Again
Robots that learn to walk again are now on the march.

World's First Android Newscaster (Video)
'The autonomic TV interviewer, camera in its hand, blocked his path.'

Japan Invites Robot Athletes To Gather For 2020 Olympics
It's time we started to get rid of that distinction between metal and flesh, and IC and neuron, don't you think?

CV Dazzle Anti-Surveillance Make-Up
Let's hear it for the vague blur!

LG Display's 18 Inch Flexible OLED Panel Is Awesomely Cool
'...a wide sheet of clear material suddenly flared with light and swirling color.'

Tiniest Microphone Inspired By Fly
'Transmitting to its manipulator, far away now, all that it heard through its ear microphones...'

NASA's Highway In The Sky For Drones
Traffic is everywhere.

Palcohol Powdered Alcohol - Try Or Ban?
'I had a small can of powdered alcohol disguised as tooth powder...'

pd.id Personal Drink ID Device Like Dune 'Poison Snooper'
'The jeweled hands clutching drinks (and the unobtrusive inspections with tiny remote-cast snoopers)...'

Monsieur Bartending Robot
'He poured the liquids into his maw...'

Cities Detect Gunfire Acoustics With ShotSpotter
'Sound trackers on the roof...'

Cruise Automation's 'Highway Autopilot' For $10K
'It cut her out of the stream of vehicles and reduced the speed of her car...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.