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Spotlight On Mars - Image
Wanted: Space-Age Dust Removal
April 20, 2008
This animated gif is a combination of two still images. The first image shows a closeup view in black and white of the junction where two very clean solar cells intersect.  The second image shows a closeup view of two solar cells heavily coated with dust; much of the dust has aggregated into tiny clumps all over the surface.

If Mars had an on-line Web site for ads, one of them might say something like this: "Wanted: Gentle space-age dust removal system to clean solar cells without leaving grit behind. Please direct inquiries to NASA."

NASA's Spirit rover has accumulated a lot of dust during four years of exploring Mars, especially following last year's dust storms. Only about one-third of incoming sunlight is able to penetrate dust on the rover's solar panels to be converted to electricity. As a result, Spirit is experiencing the lowest energy levels to date and accumulating a backlog of data waiting to be transmitted to Earth. The only available cleaning agent would be a timely gust of Martian wind!

Microscopic image credits:


Higher Res Images:
  This image shows an overhead view of Opportunity's robotic arm and its multiple scientific tools hovering over a thin blade extending upward along the left edge of a flat rock.
Full Size Still Image
This image shows the sand-strewn, flat surface of the light tan rock outcrop with the fin viewed from above. An arrow points to the fin, a very thin blade of material standing on edge and casting a little bit of a shadow at the rock's left edge. Near the upper 'cutting' edge of the fin are the gray, broken-off flakes shown in greater detail in the accompanying microscopic image mosaic.
Full Size Still Image
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