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Survival Of Mars Rover Is Under Threat Due To A sandstorm

The storm has already affected a quarter of the surface of Mars

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NASA, opportunity, Mars
The nearly 15-year-old rover is not out of the woods yet as it could take weeks, or even months, for the dust to start settling., Pixabay

An unprecedented sandstorm on Mars is threatening the survival of NASA’s solar-powered Opportunity rover, the US space agency has announced.

“We are concerned but we are hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will be able to communicate with us,” Opportunity project manager, John Callas, said late Wednesday.

The rover has been running low in power since the storm – which started on May 30 at the same point where the rover is parked – has removed its main source of energy, sunlight.

Opportunity is currently enveloped in what NASA describes as “a dark, perpetual night”.

According to NASA, Opportunity appears to have automatically entered a power-saving mode in which most of its functions are suspended.

Even so, the rover has to maintain the temperature of its batteries to survive on the icy Mars.

“As long as the rover stays warm enough, and our predictions are that it will, we can go any number of days,” Callas said, adding that summer on Mars is approaching and hence the temperatures will rise.

planet Mars
planet Mars, Pixabay

The storm has already affected a quarter of the surface of Mars, equivalent to the size of the entire American continent, and could surround the planet in a few days, as happened in 2001 and 2007.

“It is unprecedented in the pace at which it has grown and spread across the globe,” Jim Watzin, the director of NASA’s Mars exploration program, said at the same conference.

Scientists do not know when the storm will end and the rover will be able to generate new solar power, if its systems are not affected.

Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 and has made discoveries about the past of the red planet.

Also read: Curiosity Rover Finds Ancient ‘Building Blocks for Life’ on Mars

For example, it found that at least a part of Mars had the necessary humidity conditions for mesophilic bacteria to live four billion years ago, and it also discovered that the planet used to have an acidic environment some time later. (IANS)

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Anticipated Problems That May Effect NASA’s Mars Mission

According to results from the first eight analog space crews, presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., the astronauts are able to successfully complete tasks between 20 and 60 per cent of the time.

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NASA has formalised plans to send a manned mission to Mars, a journey that could involve 250 million miles of travel on a small spacecraft.  Pixabay

Researchers are developing a predictive model to help NASA anticipate conflicts and communication breakdowns among crew members and tick off problems that may make or break the Mission to Mars.

NASA has formalised plans to send a manned mission to Mars, a journey that could involve 250 million miles of travel on a small spacecraft.

To understand the psychological demands of this Mars journey, Northwestern University has charted a multi-phase study conducted in two analog environments — HERA in the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the SIRIUS Mission in the NEK analog located in the Institute for Bio-Medical Problems (IBMP) in Russia.

The varsity will study the behaviour of analog astronaut crews on mock missions, complete with isolation, sleep deprivation, specially designed tasks and mission control, which mimics real space travel with delayed communication.

Mars
NASA has formalised plans to send a manned mission to Mars, a journey that could involve 250 million miles of travel on a small spacecraft. 
Pixabay

“Astronauts are super humans. They are people who are incredibly physically fit and extremely smart,” said Leslie DeChurch, Professor at Northwestern.

“We’re taking an already state-of-the-art crew selection system and making it even better by finding the values, traits and other characteristics that will allow NASA to compose crews that will get along,” DeChurch added.

HERA’s capsule simulator houses astronauts for up to 45 days — a mock mission control outside the capsule — that augments the realism with sound effects, vibrations and communication delays.

space
According to results from the first eight analog space crews, presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., the astronauts are able to successfully complete tasks between 20 and 60 per cent of the time. Pixabay

Those on the inside undergo sleep deprivation and try to perform tasks. The researchers collect moment-to-moment metrics about individual performance, moods, psychosocial adaptation and more.

According to results from the first eight analog space crews, presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., the astronauts are able to successfully complete tasks between 20 and 60 per cent of the time.

Also Read: Iran Doubts Europe’s Efforts To Keep Nuclear Deal Alive

The next phase of the research, which began on February 15, involves using the model to predict breakdowns and problems a new HERA crew will experience and making changes to “who works with whom, on what, and when”.

The experiment on the SIRIUS analog in Moscow, will begin on March 15, where four Russians and two Americans, will undertake a 120-day fictional mission around the moon, including a moon landing operation. (IANS)