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Mars rover power levels drop
Posted: Wed, Nov 12, 2008, 7:33 AM ET (1233 GMT)
Mars Exploration Rover (NASA/JPL) A dust storm has dropped power levels on one of NASA's twin Mars rovers to dangerously low levels, project officials said late Monday. The rover Spirit generated far less power on Sunday, November 9 than it needs to maintain normal operations, officials said, blaming a dust storm that cut the amount of sunlight reaching the rover's solar panels. Engineers have taken steps to try and conserve power to avoid draining the rover's batteries, such as turning off some heaters, including one that protects the rover's thermal emission spectrometer, and also commanding the rover to not communicate with the Earth until Thursday. Those steps are designed to keep the rover from entering an automatic fault protection mode when its batteries run too low, which could be more difficult to recover from. Spirit has been on the surface of Mars since January 2004, far exceeding its planned 90-day lifetime. News of Spirit's power problems some after NASA officials declared the mission of the Phoenix Mars Lander over, in part also because of a dust storm.
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