NASA/JPL: The Perfect Storm for Science on Mars

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NASA/JPL: The Perfect Storm for Science on Mars

Post by bystander » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:10 pm

NASA Encounters the Perfect Storm for Science
NASA | JPL-Caltech | Mars Exploration | 2018 Jun 13
One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA's Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft to learn from the swirling dust.

NASA has three orbiters circling the Red Planet, each equipped with special cameras and other atmospheric instruments. Additionally, NASA's Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in dust at its location in Gale Crater. ...

The current storm above Opportunity, which is still growing, now blankets 14 million square miles (35 million square kilometers) of Martian surface -- about a quarter of the planet.

All dust events, regardless of size, help shape the Martian surface. Studying their physics is critical to understanding the ancient and modern Martian climate ...
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Re: NASA/JPL: The Perfect Storm for Science on Mars

Post by BDanielMayfield » Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:10 pm

bystander wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:10 pm
NASA Encounters the Perfect Storm for Science
NASA | JPL-Caltech | Mars Exploration | 2018 Jun 13
One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA's Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft to learn from the swirling dust.

NASA has three orbiters circling the Red Planet, each equipped with special cameras and other atmospheric instruments. Additionally, NASA's Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in dust at its location in Gale Crater. ...

The current storm above Opportunity, which is still growing, now blankets 14 million square miles (35 million square kilometers) of Martian surface -- about a quarter of the planet.

All dust events, regardless of size, help shape the Martian surface. Studying their physics is critical to understanding the ancient and modern Martian climate ...
Could such windstorms on Mars be as dangerous to astronauts as the ones depicted in the movie The Martian ? With the rarified air pressure there I doubted that massive objects could be pushed about as much as shown.

Bruce
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Re: NASA/JPL: The Perfect Storm for Science on Mars

Post by rstevenson » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:06 pm

BDanielMayfield wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:10 pm
Could such windstorms on Mars be as dangerous to astronauts as the ones depicted in the movie The Martian ? With the rarified air pressure there I doubted that massive objects could be pushed about as much as shown.

Bruce
I wondered that when I saw the movie, Bruce. And here's the answer... 'The Martian' Dust Storm Would Actually Be a Breeze.

Rob

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Re: NASA/JPL: The Perfect Storm for Science on Mars

Post by Ann » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:29 pm

rstevenson wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:06 pm
BDanielMayfield wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:10 pm
Could such windstorms on Mars be as dangerous to astronauts as the ones depicted in the movie The Martian ? With the rarified air pressure there I doubted that massive objects could be pushed about as much as shown.

Bruce
I wondered that when I saw the movie, Bruce. And here's the answer... 'The Martian' Dust Storm Would Actually Be a Breeze.

Rob
But this doesn't sound too good:
Smith said a person standing on the planet's surface would have trouble seeing — how much trouble is unclear, but it would be darker. The grinding sand would also get into everything: spacesuits, habitats, rovers and other equipment, Smith said.
Ann
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Re: NASA/JPL: The Perfect Storm for Science on Mars

Post by BDanielMayfield » Sat Jun 16, 2018 4:57 am

rstevenson wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:06 pm
BDanielMayfield wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:10 pm
Could such windstorms on Mars be as dangerous to astronauts as the ones depicted in the movie The Martian ? With the rarified air pressure there I doubted that massive objects could be pushed about as much as shown.

Bruce
I wondered that when I saw the movie, Bruce. And here's the answer... 'The Martian' Dust Storm Would Actually Be a Breeze.

Rob
Thanks Rob, that confirmed what I thought.

Ann, your right about the dust being a big issue though. It is here on Earth too, as my wife and I found out when trying to pitch a tent once in a west Texas windstorm. We had to give up and drive about an hour further to find a hotel room.

Bruce
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Re: NASA/JPL: The Perfect Storm for Science on Mars

Post by rstevenson » Sat Jun 16, 2018 1:18 pm

I recall my mother talking about duststorms back in "the dirty 30s", when she was growing up in Calgary. Huge walls of dark dust would occasionally sweep over the sity. They'd stuff anything they could into cracks below doors, and use damp tea towels to try to seal up their single-hung windows, to little effect. After the storm they'd have to clean the whole house, since the dust got in anyway.

Martian dust would have one extra inconvenience -- it would be a major irritant to skin, eyes, lungs, and throats. And then there's the perchlorate content of the dust, which can cause thyroid problems.

Rob

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Re: NASA/JPL: The Perfect Storm for Science on Mars

Post by BDanielMayfield » Mon Jun 18, 2018 11:55 am

rstevenson wrote:
Sat Jun 16, 2018 1:18 pm
I recall my mother talking about duststorms back in "the dirty 30s", when she was growing up in Calgary. Huge walls of dark dust would occasionally sweep over the sity. They'd stuff anything they could into cracks below doors, and use damp tea towels to try to seal up their single-hung windows, to little effect. After the storm they'd have to clean the whole house, since the dust got in anyway.

Martian dust would have one extra inconvenience -- it would be a major irritant to skin, eyes, lungs, and throats. And then there's the perchlorate content of the dust, which can cause thyroid problems.

Rob
I didn't know that the dustbowl conditions of the '30s extended clear up into Canada. The southern end of this effect caused by drought and unwise farming practices was in Texas. My dad had memories about it too.

On Mars I would think if your skin, eyes, etc. are exposed to martian air you wouldn't have to worry much about long term dust effects. :ohno:

Bruce
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Martian Dust Storm Grows Global

Post by bystander » Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:08 pm

Martian Dust Storm Grows Global
Curiosity Captures Photos of Thickening Dust

NASA | JPL-Caltech | MSL Curiosity | 2018 Jun 20

A storm of tiny dust particles has engulfed much of Mars over the last two weeks and prompted NASA's Opportunity rover to suspend science operations. But across the planet, NASA's Curiosity rover, which has been studying Martian soil at Gale Crater, is expected to remain largely unaffected by the dust. While Opportunity is powered by sunlight, which is blotted out by dust at its current location, Curiosity has a nuclear-powered battery that runs day and night.

The Martian dust storm has grown in size and is now officially a "planet-encircling" (or "global") dust event. ...

Opportunity Hunkers Down During Dust Storm
NASA | JPL-Caltech | MER Opportunity | 2018 Jun 20

As of Tuesday morning, June 19, the Martian dust storm had grown in size and was officially a "planet-encircling" (or "global") dust event. The storm has starkly increased dust at Gale Crater, where NASA's Curiosity rover is studying the storm's effects from the surface.

There still was no signal received from NASA's Opportunity rover, despite efforts to listen in case it's coming out of sleep during its fault window -- the period of time when it attempts to communicate. A recent analysis of the rover's long-term survivability in Mars' extreme cold suggests Opportunity's electronics and batteries can stay warm enough to function. Regardless, the project doesn't expect to hear back from Opportunity until the skies begin to clear over the rover. That doesn't stop them from listening for the rover every day.

The dust storm is comparable in scale to a similar storm observed by Viking I in 1977, but not as big as the 2007 storm that Opportunity previously weathered. But it's also different than the massive storms observed by Mariner 9 (1971-1972) and Mars Global Surveyor (2001). Those storms totally obscured the planet's surface, save for the peaks of Mars' tallest volcanoes. The current dust storm is more diffuse and patchy; it's anyone's guess how it will further develop, but it shows no sign of clearing.
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"Storm Chasers" on Mars Searching for Dusty Secrets

Post by bystander » Thu Jul 19, 2018 11:36 pm

"Storm Chasers" on Mars Searching for Dusty Secrets
NASA | JPL-Caltech | Mars Exploration | 2018 Jul 19

Storm chasing takes luck and patience on Earth -- and even more so on Mars.

Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Mars Before and After Dust Storm -- Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
For scientists watching the Red Planet from data gathered by NASA's orbiters, the past month has been a windfall. "Global" dust storms, where a runaway series of storms creates a dust cloud so large it envelops the planet, only appear every six to eight years (that's three to four Mars years). Scientists still don't understand why or how exactly these storms form and evolve.

In June, one of these dust events rapidly engulfed the planet. Scientists first observed a smaller-scale dust storm on May 30. By June 20, it had gone global.

For the Opportunity rover, that meant a sudden drop in visibility from a clear, sunny day to that of an overcast one. Because Opportunity runs on solar energy, scientists had to suspend science activities to preserve the rover's batteries. As of July 18th, no response has been received from the rover. ...

While the Opportunity team waits in earnest to hear from the rover, scientists on other Mars missions have gotten a rare chance to study this head-scratching phenomenon.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, and Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiters are all tailoring their observations of the Red Planet to study this global storm and learn more about Mars' weather patterns. Meanwhile, the Curiosity rover is studying the dust storm from the Martian surface. ...
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk.
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Six Things About Opportunity's Recovery Efforts

Post by bystander » Fri Aug 17, 2018 5:41 pm

Six Things About Opportunity's Recovery Efforts
NASA | JPL-Caltech | MER Opportunity | 2018 Aug 16

NASA's Opportunity rover has been silent since June 10, when a planet-encircling dust storm cut off solar power for the nearly-15-year-old rover. Now that scientists think the global dust storm is "decaying" -- meaning more dust is falling out of the atmosphere than is being raised back into it -- skies might soon clear enough for the solar-powered rover to recharge and attempt to "phone home."

No one will know how the rover is doing until it speaks. But the team notes there’s reason to be optimistic: They’ve performed several studies on the state of its batteries before the storm, and temperatures at its location. Because the batteries were in relatively good health before the storm, there’s not likely to be too much degradation. And because dust storms tend to warm the environment -- and the 2018 storm happened as Opportunity’s location on Mars entered summer -- the rover should have stayed warm enough to survive.

What will engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, be looking for -- and what will those signs mean for recovery efforts?
  • A tau below 2
  • Two Ways to Listen for Opportunity
  • Rover faults out
  • What happens if they hear back?
  • Not out of the woods
  • Send Opportunity a postcard
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
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Opportunity Emerges in a Dusty Picture

Post by bystander » Wed Sep 26, 2018 2:12 pm

Opportunity Emerges in a Dusty Picture
NASA | JPL-Caltech | MER Opportunity | 2018 Sep 25
NASA still hasn't heard from the Opportunity rover, but at least we can see it again.

A new image produced by HiRISE, a high-resolution camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), shows a small object on the slopes of the Red Planet's Perseverance Valley. That object is Opportunity, which was descending into the Martian valley when a dust storm swept over the region a little more than 100 days ago.

The storm was one of several that stirred up enough dust to enshroud most of the Red Planet and block sunlight from reaching the surface. The lack of sunlight caused the solar-powered Opportunity to go into hibernation.

The rover's team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, hasn't heard from it since. On Sept. 11, JPL began increasing the frequency of commands it beams to the 14-year-old rover. ...
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk.
— Garrison Keillor