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rocketsocks t1_ivvg8tm wrote

If it were easy they'd be doing it already (NASA, CNSA, ESA). So far the cost/benefit of putting in the legwork to do all the R&D to figure it out hasn't seemed worth it. That'll change at some point in the near-future, no doubt, the questions are when and why. It also may be that there are not really great low mass solutions and the only things that work well are bulky and cumbersome, but ultimately we don't really know. We know that the most obvious solutions (like wipers or brushes) are probably not as workable as they seem at first blush.


disgruntled-pigeon t1_ivvmird wrote

Ultra thin sheets of protective film over the solar panels that can be pulled away/ejected? Even just one sheet would double the lifetime of the craft if we waited til now to actuate it. And if the operation failed it wouldn’t be any different to the current situation of not having it.


[deleted] t1_ivvw2yl wrote

not sure why the replies to this comment are so pitiful. it's counter productive to squash brainstorming with belittling. there are ways to go about informing someone of the obstacles their idea would have to deal with, and acting holier-than-thou from the start without even offering a counter suggestion is not it, lol.

edit: yeah one of the ppl who replied to this made a 4 page essay here and then just called me a slur in my dms LMAO so the kind of people to disagree with this comment aren't worth the time or effort to argue with anymore


rocketsocks t1_ivwxkzm wrote

It's not brainstorming though, it's just dismissiveness of a kind. It's trying to put forward this narrative that it's an easy problem, and it's not. If folks are serious about coming up with a solution to the problem, that's great, but it's unlikely to result from someone with no expertise in the field spending 30 seconds thinking about it and then moving on.

Which is what a lot of the pushback against those solutions illustrates, is the lack of depth of thinking about the problem that folks who "found a solution" exhibit. There are helpful suggestions and then there are half-assed unhelpful suggestions, and almost universally the "ideas" put forward by randos are the latter. Which is unfortunate, because there is value to collaboration and wide open problem solving, but this is not that.

Even more than that it's easy to see the root of these comments as fundamentally unhelpful. The starting assumption is that people are being stupid (across three separate national/international space programs) are missing something obvious, which comes about from this bias toward personal superiority and intelligence. Someone who was actually heavily invested in trying to help find a solution to the problem would start off by asking questions not proposing solutions. They would ask what the constraints are, what the full details of the problem are, what solutions have been investigated and found unsuitable, and so on. Instead you get people who just ride high on all of their assumptions and ignorance and don't even have the self-awareness to realize that's a problem. Is it smart to assume that Martian dust and Earth dust is identical with identical properties? Probably not, but it's a very common assumption by the solution havers. It's really easy to pretend that lazy, unhelpful advice is being made in good faith but it's generally not, and it's not being made with any level of thoughtfulness or effort behind it.

A good little comparison point here comes from the movie Pulp Fiction. In one scene a character, "The Wolf", is brought in to solve a problem, and the first thing they do is ask a bunch of questions to identify the scope and details of the situation, and then they proceed from there. That's just standard practice for any situation, even if you are a subject matter expert. You need to learn first then you can try proposing solutions. And if you aren't a subject matter expert (in, say, the design and operation of interplanetary spacecraft) then you should probably spend some time learning some details there as well. With that in mind, ask yourself what it would look like if someone really, truly was trying to be helpful in solving this problem, and if they put more than a few seconds of half-assed work into it, and then ask yourself how often you see comments of that nature that are actually thoughtful, informed, and potentially helpful.


Torcal4 t1_ivwzxp8 wrote

> it’s unlikely to result from someone with no expertise in the field spending 30 seconds thinking about it and then moving on.

It’s Reddit….not an actual NASA board meeting. People don’t need permission to just throw out random thoughts. This doesnt lead to anything.

> The starting assumption is that people are being stupid […] which comes about from this bias toward personal superiority and intelligence

I’m kind of getting some projection vibes from this comment. You complain that someone would have the balls to have a random thought about how to clean the dust because they’re assuming people from different space agencies are stupid but then also say “well they’re not smart enough to think of a solution like this”.

You seem to be taking this all very seriously. I’m not sure who you are or what you do. But Reddit isn’t where NASA or ESA or SpaceX or whoever comes to for solutions. There’s literally no harm in anyone writing anything here as a fleeting thought. And to go ahead and write 4 paragraphs about why someone should feel bad about making a comment on a discussion forum is pretty silly.


BecomingCass t1_ivybuiv wrote

I wouldn't call this kind of thinking half-assed, but inexperienced. It's a whole new set of problems that people who haven't got the prerequisite knowledge probably wouldn't even consider, because these things never happen on earth.


m4nu3lf t1_ivzl2yn wrote

While that's true in most cases, it's not always true. There have been examples of inexperienced people proposing a solution to a problem that actually turned out to be better or correct. Two examples that come to my mind are:

  • One person suggesting to Elon Musk on Twitter to light all the engines of Starship during landing and shutting off two of them. If any engine fails you don't choose it to be the one you rely on for landing.

  • One guy accidentally proving a mathematical hypothesis in a thread about the anime The Melancholy of Harui Suzumiya on 4chan.

Quite funny, although these are, of course, exceptions.


MudnuK t1_ivykie0 wrote

No one has provided a solid answer yet, just left replies saying 'that's dumb'. I am very far from an engineer or astronomer (if that's even the right field) - would you mind explaining why a removable film is a bad idea?


[deleted] t1_ivyv3is wrote

it would require additional hardware to actually eject the film, which makes the craft heavier and creates more opportunities for technical conflict/ failure. ex. what if the film isn't applied properly and becomes "foggy", effectively making it a costly and ineffective addition? or the film catches on the craft itself causing issues with other systems? there is also concern about litter, although that is mostly a moral concern/ slippery slope argument as a few pieces of plastic on a planet is negligible. it could also be an ineffective solution if it doesn't remove the dust as well as intended. mars' sand isn't like earth sand; it's extremely fine and by nature more resistant to removal. there's a good chance the film could be ejected only to blow more sand on what it's protecting in the process if the aerodynamics is not accurately predicted. i'm not a scientist, but i'd guess static could play a big part here too. in any case, it would cost a lot of money, time, and research to make a functional film ejection system, which may piss off those financially invested in the project if it doesn't work. an issue like that could hinder future research. NASA is very careful about what they invest their time and money in, and has likely determined that the risk vs. benefit of a sand removal system is not in their favor. i don't think there's a good solution to this problem, but people tend to be creative and continuing a positive conversation about it may reveal one. :>


MudnuK t1_ivz2joh wrote

Thanks for the great answer! Woo science


m4nu3lf t1_ivzjf1x wrote

I don't get how some can possibly have a concern for "littering" a place that is huge, toxic, full of radiation, and possibly devoid of life. The only thing could be contamination with bacteria.


AspieAndProud t1_ivzq9e2 wrote

The sharing of knowledge thru conversations and point-counterpoint is the purpose of r/space. But do you contributors really think you have a better comprehension of the problem than NASA's select experts? NASA engineering has certainly considered virtually all options and, bottom line, the problems with the solutions apparently outweigh the problem itself. The benefits of new tech development is best applied to replacement missions with new rovers equipped to answer new questions. 🤔🧐


imafraidofmuricans t1_ivygeiv wrote

We aren't in a brainstorming session though, and somebody trying to brainstorm while lacking 75% of the information of the problem is not helpful, just annoying. It's the typical reddit "wow these highly educated people are all idiots, I came up with an answer in 30sec"


rocketsocks t1_ivvsvx7 wrote

How do you pull it away? What mechanism is used? How do you test that the sheet doesn't reduce the amount of light received? How do you test that the sheet doesn't increase the rate of buildup of dust? Once you get into the nitty gritty you find out it's a huge engineering problem with lots of costs and time associated with getting it even remotely right, which is why of the three organizations which have recently built Mars landers/rovers they've all decided it's not worth the investment of trying to mitigate dust build up, at least not yet.


tenshii326 t1_ivw87gi wrote

Wouldn't the ability to simply rotate the panels 180 degrees solve this issue?


is_explode t1_ivwsito wrote

Think fine dust buildup as opposed to normal sand you might find at a beach. Also the physical mechanism needs to change to be able to rotate the 180 (or even just 90 degrees) For Insight, the shape of the panels means I'm not actually sure there is sufficient ground clearance to rotate the panels.


jEsTsBaCk t1_ivvsk70 wrote

Yea let’s pollute even more shit. And how many of these dumb ass sheets are you going to have before you run out?


TheKingPotat t1_ivvvav8 wrote

Its a dead world. Theres no ecology being put at risk by the minute amount of derbris humanity has on mars


StrangeTangerine1525 t1_ivw7qdo wrote

Jumping the gun a bit there don't you think? Either way its far more likely that if there is present Martian life, its going to be underground so surface trash wont do anything, especially since its such a small amount compared to the size of a planet.


TheKingPotat t1_ivwopt2 wrote

Personally my moneys still on the safer bets of the ice moons as opposed to life of any kind on mars beyond maybe the poles


cobalt1227 t1_ivvymql wrote

What about compressed air? When cleaning my shop on a windy day, it’s always easier to blow the dust out with a compressor then try sweeping.


is_explode t1_ivwsozp wrote

Not mentioned, but using compressed air means either bringing said compressed air, or bring a compressor. Both require control mechanisms, and additional mass and volume that can't be used for science.


Sealingni t1_iw2xjvv wrote

With Starship, weight will be less of an issue for future probes so maybe we can afford technology (and extra weight) to clean the solar panels in the near (within 10 years) future?


is_explode t1_iw349s7 wrote

Well it seems like the Mars landers/rovers are managing to exceed design life enough that something to clean panels would probably be coming down the line eventually, and extra mass allowable certainly would make that easier.


rocketsocks t1_ivvzvd6 wrote

Sure, but then how are you going to make it work? You have to hit the whole panel, which probably means some kind of armature. That's not exactly trivial in terms of complexity, weight, etc. when you're talking about adding something to a spacecraft. And then anything like that you need to do testing on, already you're spending millions on something that may not work very well.