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poqpoq t1_irj0k3a wrote

Seeing lots of comments with simple suggestions. It’s NASA if a problem exists still it’s because it’s harder to fix than it appears. IIRC Martian fines have a strong static charge and love to stick. Compressed air wouldn’t work well. Also Martian fines are very rough, so wipers would tear up the panels.

They have come up with some cool repellent systems for their space suits using electric currents in the last few years. I am guessing they will work to implement that tech with new rovers.

Lunar fines are a bit worse then Martian ones but they are very similar issues.


Few_Carpenter_9185 t1_irjzheh wrote

Good post.

The conditions on Earth with thick atmosphere, water vapor, weather etc. that dissolves, crushes, or clumps ultra-fine dust, don't really prepare people mentally to understand the difficulty.

People think "dust" and equate it to their house. Or maybe if they've been in the military or traveled, and have been exposed to desert dust or dust storms. The latter adds some understanding, but still doesn't really convey the difference between Earth-dust, and ultra-fine particulates in vacuum or near-vacuum.

The vacuum on the Moon with zero erosion, and dust charging from sunlight and radiation will make it a challenge. Apollo astronauts had irritation and symptoms, fortunately the exposure was limited and short.

It'll be a much bigger issue for longer Moon missions that have EVA activity. Especially because the dust is very sharp and jagged, never being exposed to weather. That can mean it's got Asbestos-like qualities.

The public at large typically doesn't understand downstream domino-effects from engineering changes in something somewhat simpler like automobiles. Automobiles that they may own and use every day. And will complain about how the Tesla battery isn't a replaceable box that goes in the trunk etc.

So expecting them to understand the same thing on a space mission, that has zero chance of being given maintenance or repairs, and the mass and power consumption can affect if the destination is even reached, or the mission even happens... and all of it, including changes and testing, has to be ready up against various launch-window hard deadlines that don't budge for anyone.

Probably a bridge too far.

It's nice to imagine that they all could though. The side benefits of such voters on economics, energy policy, medicine/epidemiology, all sorts of things would be enormous.


ontopofyourmom t1_irkshs9 wrote

Terrestrial fines (like you find in dry lakebeds) aren't nearly as bad as either, but they cling just as well.

Liberal amounts of compressed air or anti-mineral surfactants like those used for softening water are the only good ways to remove them.


ZappaLlamaGamma t1_irloze4 wrote

Yeah they have the smartest folks over there. Maybe future ones will use electrostatic tech like some of the moon suits in development.


Gimblejay t1_iriuuey wrote

It’s interesting to me that they haven’t found a solution to the caked dust covering the solar arrays. Maybe hindsight is 20/20 and in follow up missions it will be considered.

Otherwise, pretty cool to hear there’s a continent sized dust storm on a planet smaller than Earth!


PintsizeWarrior t1_iriy1xx wrote

There are lots of solutions, wiping, blowing, shaking, etc. Those would need to be developed by these projects, adding cost, schedule, and risk. For “inexpensive” missions like Insight, that means choosing between science capabilities and longevity, so they made tough choices.


Bdr1983 t1_iriyiia wrote

All these solutions increase the weight of the probe but a lot, thus they would have to do away with science instruments. That is why they don't add these items. Easiest would actually be do away with solar and have RTG's on every probe... But those are expensive and harder to come by these days, as not much plutonium is made anymore.


PintsizeWarrior t1_irjdj3c wrote

Totally. If we could use RTGs or fission reactors like the one NASA is developing, these problems would be much nicer! Shame they cost so dang much!


ClearlyCylindrical t1_irju787 wrote

Wiping is a bad idea, would really damage the panels.


PintsizeWarrior t1_irjuz1a wrote

Yeah sorry, I didn’t mean that one could just use wipers on these exact panels as is. I meant that a new system for the panels that could include those solutions with the right material changes would be needed, and these projects can’t take on that effort and still meet their cost limits.


ClearlyCylindrical t1_irjv54x wrote

Solar panels are delicate, changing the surface to make them more durable to wiping would significantly reduce their efficiency.


noncongruent t1_irlfm42 wrote

On the other hand, being able to wipe a few times would dramatically extend the mission lifetime. If InSight had been launched with a brush attachment instead of HP^3 then it would likely have another decade of service ahead of it running the other experiments, especially the seismometer. Eventually other parts will fail, especially the onboard batteries since there's not really any such thing as battery chemistries that have indefinite lifetimes, but then again this is more of a hindsight observation.


MordinSolusSTG t1_irix1fb wrote

engineers at nasa never heard of wiper blades, smh my head


Legacy-ZA t1_irixgp3 wrote

Or a rotary that can turn so the dust falls off, include that with a wiper... Your golden. But alas, we have 🤡 running the 🌍 so what can you expect?


jmiz5 t1_irj0wsr wrote

You're calling rocket scientists clowns, but you're posting on Reddit and you don't know the proper usage of "your"


savagebrar t1_irjhvak wrote

I didn’t even know where to start cause wtf lmaoooo


pssiraj t1_irizdbq wrote

Not quite fair. Science on another planet is tough and ridiculously expensive. They no doubt had to choose between adding more fail-safes and saving weight and cost.


poqpoq t1_irj1ecz wrote

Or Martian dust is like little razor blazes and a wiper would scratch up the panels badly. A rotary makes more sense but the dust is static and some would still stick. Also a rotary is a lot of weight if it can move all the panels with good speed.

There may be a lot of clowns but NASA is not among them unless it’s a case of congress mandating something to them.


almisami t1_irk7zth wrote

The dust clings because of electrostatic charge.

As for wipers, dragging the dust would abrade the panels like sandblasting.


JimiWanShinobi t1_irizacp wrote

Compressed air would work too, there's no moisture in the air like on Earth so it's literally just dust. An air compressor with built-in lines pointed at the solar arrays could just blow the dust off, super simple solution...


poqpoq t1_irj10wj wrote

Made a top level comment with more detail, but Martian dust is static so compressed air wouldn’t work well. Also that’s a pretty big and heavy system if you want any power.


Strykker2 t1_irj5vpb wrote

And where are you going to get all the power that compressor needs?

A compressor alone would draw more power than the entire probe uses currently.


JimiWanShinobi t1_irj8nra wrote

Not necessarily, a small weak one like I have in my trunk could be allowed to build up enough pressure in a storage tank over time until it's needed. Another option could be pre-loaded air cartridges, might mean a limited number of uses but it could extend the life of the system...


Blackpaw8825 t1_irjdyet wrote

Does the one in your trunk work at 180,000 feet? We're talking under 0.1psi, your shitbox compressor isn't even going to hold a gradient at these pressures. Each bite the compressor takes contains so little air.

Couple that with lots of vibration, additional wear surfaces, a lot of extra weight, huge power demands, and the fact that same dust is going to clog the compressor or erode it away...

This simple fix just adds a lot of complexity and failure modes.


Few_Dig7979 t1_irj6d08 wrote

I'm sure you're smarter than NASA you should apply


rocketsocks t1_irjvyxm wrote

If there was an easy, effective way of handling the problem they'd have implemented. As would China with their rover/lander, as would the ESA with their rover design (which hasn't flown yet).


pyrilampes t1_irj2ffb wrote

Space Windex needed here. Where's Mr Clean?


AspieAndProud t1_irkyyxa wrote

I'll volunteer my wife. Send her to Mars to clean it up. 🤔🥽🧤🤪


justreddis t1_iriv26d wrote

I’m just glad that no human being has to suffer a continent sized dust storm


PhunkyPhish t1_irizq7j wrote

Its for this reason i have always been more of a habutt guy instead of a haboob guy


Combatpigeon96 t1_iriwne8 wrote

Is there research being done on cleaning the solar panels? I feel like that would be a really good feature to have.


manducentcrustula t1_iriwvh7 wrote

No, I'm pretty sure NASA hasn't thought about the fact it would be nice to have clean solar panels and tried to fix the problem


JoCoMoBo t1_irixz3n wrote

How about sending a person with a big stick to knock the sand off...?


DynamiteWitLaserBeam t1_irj0voc wrote

Genius. And if anything breaks, this person can poke it with the big stick and say "you can do it bessie - 'at a girl!".


JoCoMoBo t1_irj1et9 wrote

Yep, they can poke the off/on switch on the lander and restart it if needed.


Smile_Space t1_irizefu wrote

It'll add weight and complexity. More complexity equals more failure points. Also it would require more power storage.

So they design the lander to survive a specific amount of time as a top level requirement. If they don't need wipers (which due to the shape of the panels would only move the dust around on the panels) or any other heavy complex part to meet that top level requirement, then they don't bring it.


Combatpigeon96 t1_irizn6d wrote

I’d say solar panels inevitably not working is a pretty big point of failure though. Most rovers and landers go way over their predicted lifetime too.


AreaAtheist t1_irj0jde wrote

Solar panels get the benefit of occasionally being blown clean by a lucky gust of wind, which has extended the life of a few rovers.


Smile_Space t1_irj1dmh wrote

True, but if their top level requirement was to only gather data for 4 years, then they designed the solar panels to simply provide enough power to survive that 4 years. If it survives longer great! But due to their requirements more than likely not being beyond that, they don't need the extra weight.

Remember, they had to maximize overy ounce on the craft to meet the mass limitations. Otherwise they weren't gonnaake it to Mars. Any attempt to add parts to clean the solar panels means they'd have to downsize or outright remove some scientific payloads they brought with which would further limit the landers capabilities.

November 26th is their official 4 year mark since landing, so this dust storm may take it out prior to hitting that specific requirement.


rocketsocks t1_irjwcmd wrote

There is, but it's a very hard problem, nobody has cracked it yet.

The dust on Mars is very clingy because of static, it's also very abrasive so you can't just use simple wipers or brushes without ruining the solar panels.


Enderkitty5 t1_irklrel wrote

They’ve probably thought about it but what about a dust storm shield? A collapsible little thing that makes a little shelter that covers everything but an antenna? The antenna would stay exposed so NASA could still tell it to take off the shield once the storm passes but everything else wouldn’t even get exposed to the dust! Admittedly that doesn’t allow solar power to get in but with a robust enough battery or an RTG (or some other non-sun power source) it could wait out the storm and get back in the saddle none the worse for wear


z3rOk3w1 t1_irmt6v2 wrote

We are going to have to go rescue Matt Damon again won’t we ?


Daffers68 t1_irjlihb wrote

Interesting. I just read The Martian and this nearly foiled Mark too.


XeroxApple t1_iriz92f wrote

Dust storms are caused by strong wind. Dont you need a sustainable atmosphere with water and foliage to make wind?


Mo-Cance t1_irj1tyz wrote

Mars has an atmosphere, but it's only about 1% as thick as Earth's. Still more than enough to whip up dust and produce storms.

Arguably the most glaring scientific inaccuracy of the movie The Martian was that the storm in the opening scene was powerful enough to threaten the return vehicle, or to throw astronauts around. In reality, not much more than dust has a chance of being disturbed.


blueshirt21 t1_irj2pes wrote

The author even admitted that was the biggest inaccuracy of the book, but he still needed a plot device to strand Watney.


shadeandshine t1_irizq5a wrote

It’s more heat based if I remember it right. And a atmosphere is nice but it’s being thick enough to breath is important so is the o2 layer to protect against radiation.


XeroxApple t1_irj1clf wrote

Hmm. Ok. Its all so interesting.


BillHicksScream t1_irk900i wrote

The drop in pressure kills in under 20 seconds I think.

Common Sense Skeptic on youtube is good.


FlingingGoronGonads t1_irjynas wrote

All the planets from Venus to Neptune have wind, not to mention Titan, Triton and Pluto. There are only two necessary conditions: an atmosphere and a pressure difference between two locations. (Weather reports will talk about high and low pressure systems, yes? The stronger the pressure difference between high and low zones, the faster the wind moves.) Life is not a requirement. In the case of Earth and Mars, pressure differences are created daily by solar heating, so both pre-conditions are easily met.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "sustainable atmosphere", but Mars has more than enough to create some very - very - familiar phenomena.

It's not a matter of the absolute pressure/mass of a planet's atmosphere, it's the relative difference in pressure between two locations. The air molecules generally don't care how many other air molecules surround them - they care about moving from more pressure to less pressure. If by "sustainable" you mean "permanent", then Mars qualifies (although Pluto may not). If the air was so affected by the mass of the entire atmosphere, then Earth itself could barely be considered to have winds at all - the speed and motion you see in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn make Earth hurricanes look like a light breeze by comparison.

EDITED to deal with Reddit's lousy formatting.


aidissonance t1_irizgwd wrote

Mars gonna do Insight dirty like it did Opportunity.


cynical_gramps t1_irj1d98 wrote

It occurs to me that we should make heavier use of nuclear batteries and the bigger the better. Dust wouldn’t be as much of a problem if our machinery cleaned itself up by simply carrying an electric charge but that would greatly shorten the life of said machinery unless it had a lot more juice that they do now.


docduracoat t1_irjabga wrote

you have a valid point that radio thermal generators could be used on these mars missions.

However it is a major problem to get plutonium for these batteries and it’s dangerous to send plutonium up from earth into space.

Everything is a trade off and you can bet NASA look very carefully at this question


GuyOnRedditBored t1_irjjglq wrote

I wonder if they tried coating the solar panels with ceramic or graphene coatings to make it ultra slick. I had it done to my car a few years back, and literally just need a rinse here and there to look brand new again. Goes for months without looking dirty.


Decronym t1_irjzl8n wrote

Acronyms, initialisms, abbreviations, contractions, and other phrases which expand to something larger, that I've seen in this thread:

|Fewer Letters|More Letters| |-------|---------|---| |ESA|European Space Agency| |EVA|Extra-Vehicular Activity| |RTG|Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator|

^(3 acronyms in this thread; )^(the most compressed thread commented on today)^( has 12 acronyms.)
^([Thread #8125 for this sub, first seen 8th Oct 2022, 20:51]) ^[FAQ] ^([Full list]) ^[Contact] ^([Source code])


Bandsohard t1_irk763a wrote

They already deploy the solar panels, why can't they just initially deploy them such that they are angled just enough such that gravity overcomes the static friction and sand doesn't build up?


jaymauch t1_irrur3z wrote

Park the flyer under the rover until the dust storm is over, then use the flyer to blow the dust off of the solar panels.


SublimeEcto1A t1_irizi0v wrote

Continental dust storm = ultimate boner killer

Could Elon stop gaslighting us into Mars colonization? Imagine trying to netflix and space chill in a dust storm the size of Asia. No thanks


Mo-Cance t1_irj1zb3 wrote

Mars colonization has its benefits, but an Elon-led effort is certainly resorting to cannnibalism and human sacrifice with about a week.


BillHicksScream t1_irk8ayh wrote

>Mars colonization has its benefits,

No, it does not. Economics gets to step in here. There aren't adequate resources for human survival without complex technology that you cannot duplicate locally. A canoe to a ship is not a major change & they both have a huge source of resources. No space tech is simple and reliable except as a tiny part of a complex hole.

Colonies are self sustaining, with trade fueling their growth. There are no cheap food, shelter & clothing sources? You are dead eventually. No, we will not be mining, its too expensive.

This is it. This is our home. Its way better than anything else no matter what.


Mo-Cance t1_irk93it wrote

Exploration always has benefits. The knowledge gained in setting up our first extraterrestrial colony will be vital in the progress humanity will need to make to truly survive in the long term.

Never mind that science and exploration continually open up new economic doors for us all.

No one says that Earth isn't important, or that our ability to survive on it isn't vital. Best not to have all of our eggs in one basket either.


BillHicksScream t1_irkn81s wrote


It will never be a colony. Only outposts doing research, just like antartica.

No one will have children on Mars, so it aint a colony that way either. This would be a human rights violation.

These are great responses. This Lab of Science & Reason & Ethics is loving the clarity it creates.


_alright_then_ t1_irkhq5r wrote

The point of colonizing Mars is to develop the technologies required to make it a colony, in turn those technologies would change life on earth as well.


BillHicksScream t1_irkmmmx wrote

>The point of colonizing earth is to develop the technologies required to make it a colony

Is this miswritten? I don't understand.

For me, anyone serious about Mars ends up at a required room for progress. That room is the Lab of Science, Reason & Reality, LLC. And the Lab studies the desire & says "Doesn't work, cannot help". If the serious person actually cares, they ask "What is possible?" and help expand the amazing work our hands are making already, which we send to Space safely, cheaply & with the greatest of outcomes by default: every single attempt is humanity at its peak, making this the most important planet in the universe.

Anyone who keeps going is either deluded or a schemer.


_alright_then_ t1_irm9bln wrote

Yes that was miswritten, that was obviously meant to be mars.

The benefit of trying to colonize Mars is developing the technologies required for it. That's what space exploration has always been about and this time it will change life on earth again if those technologies are actually realized.

Space exploration doesn't need people like you, if everyone thought like that we wouldn't get anywhere.


BillHicksScream t1_irmpdsm wrote

>The benefit of trying to colonize Mars is developing the technologies required for it.

That logic is no better. "The reason this exists is so it exists."

>Space exploration doesn't need people like you

Reality and Reason aren't required for science?


_alright_then_ t1_irmq3ke wrote

You seem to have no idea what benefits space exploration has had on your daily life. The things that will come out of it will 100% benefit everyone.


AreaAtheist t1_irj1cxu wrote

In all honesty we'd probably be better off just under the you may not even know 😛