back to article Boffins are studying Martian clouds to avoid another Opportunity episode

While Mars might have looked a bit like Earth once upon a time, these days they couldn't be much more different. One's a red dust bowl, the other is a beautiful blue marble containing all the life we know of. But ESA and NASA scientists have found some surprising common ground – clouds. OK, Mars's are made of dust and Earth's …

  1. Jet Set Willy

    Please correct the glaring inaccuracy

    "a beautiful blue marble containing all the life we know of"

    Not so. There are a number of things alive on the ISS some way above Earth, plus some yeast cells on their way to the Moon.

    (this is highly pedantic, even for me, hence ----->)

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Please correct the glaring inaccuracy

      The ISS not even out of Earth's atmosphere, and what we are sending to the Moon is our fault (and it likely wouldn't survive on the lunar surface anyway).

      Every bit of life we know of depends on Earth. That is fact.

      Which is why it is scientifically a monumental thing if ever we discover even the smallest of bacteria somewhere else - anywhere else.

  2. NoneSuch Silver badge

    Nuclear Powerpacks Not a Thing?

    Works for nuc subs. Scaled down Thorium reactor should provide enough power for 50 years if done right. That or dust screen wipers for the solar panels.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Nuclear Powerpacks Not a Thing?

      As a general rule, people dont really like the space agencies strapping anything nuclear to a large explosive stick. If something goes wrong during launch then your going to be left with radioactive material scattered over a rather large area.

      That's pretty much the main reason, why you dont get much beyond Radioisotope Thermal Generators (like Curiosity has), because the quantity of material is so low and the half life so fast that they wont be causing problems even if there was an unscheduled rapid disassembly. A proper reactor though, tends to worry people...

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Nuclear Powerpacks Not a Thing?

        RTGs are preferred because they're incredibly reliable and very difficult to break. There's no moving parts, it's literally a lump of radioactive material and some dissimilar metals (thermocouples).

        A "proper" reactor would probably have less radioactive material, but is far more complex so more likely to break down and end the mission prematurely.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Nuclear Powerpacks Not a Thing?

      Actually becoming a thing. Look up KRUSTY (the original demonstrator was DUFF).*

      NASA has finally put together a plan for a workable nuclear package in the 10Kw range. It's simple to control. Easy to start and shut down and move around.

      Key feature is that 10Kw is a nice granular size to drive an ion thruster, surface power (and heat) for lunar or martian base.

      And the design is scalable to the 10MW range.

      Currently they are re-designing it as the original used HEU, which causes lots of trouble for shipping on a rocket.

      *I'm expecting first deployment of the revised design may be called HOMER or BART

  3. Giles C Silver badge

    Martian weather forecasting

    If they could put a few weather satellites round mars, then it could allow rough predications, equipping future mars landers with covers that could close over the solar panels when a storm was predicted might remove the problems.

    It won’t help if the storm was such that it would end up covering the craft but in normal circumstances might preserve a very expensive mission.

    1. aks

      Re: Martian weather forecasting

      Designing an array with tilted faces plus gaps between might allow occasional clearance using vibration.

  4. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    ...except they're made of dust

    The hardware in their Data Centres is going to have a very short life.

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