Wed, Jun 02, 2004
Deep Sleep Mode Allows Mars Rover To Recharge
When the Mars rover Opportunity's
instrument heater wouldn't turn itself off when it wasn't needed,
NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab was faced with a tough decision: risk
some of the temperature-sensitive equipment used to conduct soil
tests or put the whole rover to sleep during the Martian night in
order to save power. Otherwise, the heater, which was running both
day and night, would drain the solar-fed power cells and render the
rover almost useless.
The scientists riding shotgun on Opportunity decided to risk it.
So they put the rover in "deep sleep" mode. It worked.
"Opportunity successfully executed our second deep sleep of the
mission," said mission flight director Chris Lewicki in JPL's
recorded update. "We survived the night just fine with that and it
saved the energy that we expected to. More importantly our Mini-TES
instrument, which we put in danger by the deep sleep operation, did
survive the night and we hope it will survive more of these. But
we're getting dangerously close to the cold temperatures that it
isn't able to survive through."
But that doesn't mean the sensitive miniature thermal emission
spectrometer -- Mini-TES -- won't suffer in the long run. After
twice putting Opportunity into deep-sleep mode, NASA says it will
start using that strategy on a regular basis, even though Mini-TES
could be damaged if temperatures during the Martian winter nights
drop low enough.
Still, both rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, have completed their
missions. The extended lives of both machines is gravy for JPL,
which used them to verify that ocean water once existed on Mars.
Both rovers could continue to operate, gathering valuable data
about the possibilities of life on Mars, for months to come.
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