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Scott “marsroverdriver” Maxwell
45,010 followers -
I'm a pretty big wheel down at the cracker factory.
I'm a pretty big wheel down at the cracker factory.

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Sean Doran is up to his usual masterful tricks with this gorgeous flyover of Martian terrain, made using real HiRISE images. Wow. It is teh wow.
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It's traditional to occasionally generate a "movie" of front HAZCAM images from our rovers, showing where they've been and what they've done in their long lives. Here's magnificent rover driver +Paolo Bellutta's latest Opportunity movie, current as of a couple of weeks ago.

The rumbly-hissy background sound is the rover's own accelerometers, translated into audio.
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The best news from today's press conference was this: Opportunity's not that likely to freeze to death. She's designed for -55°C, and minimum flight allowable temperature is -40°C. But the storm acts like a blanket, trapping warmer air, and we're heading into summer anyway, so the steady-state temperature she experiences should be -36°C. She's aging, and who knows ... but she might just ride this one out.

Here's hoping, tough old girl. Here's hoping.

(The warm air trapped by the storm, by the way, is also why the storm grows: cooler air from outside rushes toward the warm air under the dust blanket, bringing more dust with it as it comes. From Opportunity's perspective, it's a very unfortunate feedback loop.)
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The first spacecraft we sent on a path out of the solar system had just 6KB of RAM and used the spacecraft's own motion to help take pictures. True pioneers indeed.
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Latest Opportunity update: she's still alive and talking to us as of today, sol B-5111. Still no sun visible through the solar filters (see below for the only image I can find from today) -- but the fact that she's still alive and talking to us, even during the depths of a storm this bad, just floors me. She's a good old girl. She'll fly true.
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Right now, Opportunity is weathering a major dust storm, one of the principal threats to a solar-powered rover: if it blocks out the sun long enough, her batteries will run out of energy to power her heaters, and from then she's at the mercy of Mars's Antarctic-style temperatures.

This storm is the worst Opportunity has ever seen. Here, for example, she searches for the sun on sol B-5109 (a couple of days ago). Don't see the sun in these images? Yeah, she didn't, either. :-(
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I missed this story at the time, but -- a key NASA safety panel decided +SpaceX's previously controversial "load-and-go" fueling approach is OK after all, bringing us one step closer to crewed flights aboard SpaceX rockets.
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Pluto has dunes made of methane sand (and also methane "snow"). I can't wait to return to this weird, wacky planet.
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The 2007 dust storm might have been larger, but what matters is not the size of the storm but its atmospheric opacity -- how much of the sun it blots out. Publicly available data suggests this one is much worse than Opportunity has ever seen before.
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Pretty much what I expected, but exciting all the same: today's big NASA announcement is organic molecules on Mars, as detected by Curiosity's SAM laboratory. It's the stuff life is made from. (Ignore the confused G+ headline below.)
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