Mars rover gets new lease on life

Leonard David of reports that the Spirit rover has apparently had a chance encounter with a “dust devil” on Mars.

The results were dramatic:

“The noon solar output from the panels went from a 40 percent loss to just 7 percent,” said rover science team member, Larry Crumpler, a research curator in volcanology and space sciences at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque.
Images of the panels taken later showed “beautiful dark panels,” Crumpler explained. “And all the wires and edges on the [rover] deck have little dust tails. I think it might have been the Martian squeegee men. Either that or one heck of a buffeting by a dust devil,” he said.

I’m starting to wonder if the Mars mission’s budget and Earth-based controllers’ endurance are going to last as long as these surprising robotic explorers. Any way you spin it, though, this is great news!

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