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 ")

Tracking Spinning Space Junk
'Loose nuts and bolts... had been accumulating in Earth orbit'- Arthur C. Clarke, 1978.

The Amazing Gravity-Assisted Journey Of Rosetta
'...We used the [moon's] attraction to give us additional starting speed'- Ray Cummings, 1930.

Hayabusa-2 Asteroid Cannon Strategy From 1950's SF Novel
'Fire streaked in a thin line from the muzzle of a cannon-like tube...'- EC Tubb, 1958.

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

 

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

MIT's Robotic Cheetah Runs Free - And Frolics In The Grass
'THEY sent A SLAMHOUND on Turner's trail...'

Flying Robot Has An Arm
Drones with arms.

Strati 3D Printed Car
'You rode in it - you know how good it is.'

Tracking Spinning Space Junk
'Loose nuts and bolts... had been accumulating in Earth orbit'

Baidu Kuaisou Dune Poison Snooper Chopsticks
'Unobtrusive inspections with... snoopers... Will it be chaumas - poison in the food?'

Crystalized Light Created At Princeton
'It will be matter, matter made of light...'

The Amazing Gravity-Assisted Journey Of Rosetta
'...We used the [moon's] attraction to give us additional starting speed'

AirDog Auto-Follow Drone Captures Your Awesomeness
'Tight mid-shot and pull out on but behind me...'

Dell's Venue 8 7000 Tablet With RealSense Depth-Mapping
Focus on any part of a picture later.

Google's Cartographer Backpack For Indoor Mapping
'He reached to unsnap the cartograph from his belt.'

T-Mobile Sues Huawei Over Button Pushing Robot Idea From The 1930's
'Not the slightest change in their working betrayed the fact that they were now being directed by a machine instead of human beings.'

Hayabusa-2 Asteroid Cannon Strategy From 1950's SF Novel
'Fire streaked in a thin line from the muzzle of a cannon-like tube...'

Dyson 360 Eye Robot Vacuum Cleaner
'It vacuum-cleaned... or polished, consulting tapes in its idiot memory to decide which.'

First 3D Printer In Space?
'It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'

Google's Project Wing Will Find You
'Mechanical entities that flit at the edges of our vision, that can go anywhere, that are in our very midst...'

3D Printed Space Pizza For Astronauts
Put those butcher knives aside, and let me save that meal!

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.