Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Opportunity and Spirit Rovers
Mains level: Space missions and their objectives
- NASA has announced the end of the Opportunity rover’s mission.
- Opportunity rolled out on to the Martian surface in 2004, 20 days after its twin, Spirit, had landed on the other side of the Red Planet.
- Over the next 14 years, it got successes that made it one of the most overachieving explorer robots ever built.
Spirit and Opportunity Rovers
- Spirit and Opportunity were identical, golf-cart-sized, solar-powered rovers.
- Spirit landed at Gusev Crater; Opportunity followed, landing on the opposite side of Mars at Meridiani Planum.
- Contact with Spirit was lost in March 2010, and the mission was declared over in May, 2011.
- Opportunity worked on Mars for over 14 years, longer than any other robot. Both rovers were originally supposed to have only 90-day missions.
- Opportunity travelled 45.16 km on the surface of Mars, more than any other rover.
- Its equipment have been compromised by the storm, which struck while the rover was at a site called Perseverance Valley.
- Haematite-rich small spherules, concretions nicknamed “blueberries” as photographed by Opportunity provided evidence of a watery ancient environment.
- Foremost among Spirit and Opportunity’s many science discoveries: Mars was likely wetter and warmer in the past.
- These conditions could have served as a cradle for life on Mars at a time when life first emerged on Earth.
- Opportunity was the first rover to identify and characterize sedimentary rocks on a planet other than Earth.
- Opportunity found white veins of gypsum, a sign of water that travelled through underground fractures.
- It also discovered clay minerals that formed in neutral-pH water.
Importance of the mission
- For over 14 years, Opportunity encountered challenges that called for skill and innovation to overcome.
- It drove in reverse, negotiated loose surfaces, sand traps, and slopes as steep as 31 degrees.
- The rover demonstrated reliable Mars-Earth communication.
- Curiosity and the upcoming Mars 2020 rovers is build upon their lessons.