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  • Cobots in Packaging: The State of the Industry 2018

    This year, a staggering number of companies are using cobots for packaging. Here's the state of the packaging industry in 2018.

    Packaging is a wonderful application for collaborative robots. Firstly because it's a vital but non-value-added task (which are the tasks that cobots excel at). Secondly, there is an increasing amount of packaging in the modern world.

    You may or may not agree with the current rise in packaging (e.g. you might ask "Do supermarkets really need to individually wrap bananas?"). However, it is undeniable that businesses need to keep up with the packaging demands of customers in order to scale. This means that your business either needs to employ more people to meet those demands, or find another way to match them.

    When scaling is a problem, robots are often a good solution.

    Over the last 3 years, the packaging industry has widely adopted cobots and other automation. The recent Evolution of Automation Report from the Association of Packaging and Processing Technologies found that 90% of food processing and packaging companies are now using robots (90%!!!).

    In this article, we take a look at the state of collaborative robotics in the packaging industry.

     

    What is driving the rise in robot packaging?

    So, nine out of ten packaging companies are now using robots. According to one report the cobot market is estimated at 57% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) between now and 2023.

    We think that's great. But, why are companies moving to automation?

    Some might say "Robots are just the inevitable future!" However, we know that businesses don't adopt technologies unless there is a real need for them.

    In a recent interview with Packaging Digest, Daniel Moore from Universal Robots explained: "At most every plant I visit, managers complain about labor shortages. Plants that want 100 workers only have 90. Plants that want 10 workers only have 8."

    The shortage of skilled labor is one of the top reasons for companies to adopt collaborative robots. They are unable to scale as fast as they would like to because they are restricted by an inability to keep up with the demands associated with more orders.

    robotiq gripper packagingThe recent Evolution of Automation Report from the Association of Packaging and Processing Technologies found that 90% of food processing and packaging companies are now using robots.

     

    The top 6 trends behind rising packaging automation

    Other driving forces behind the rise in packaging automation were outlined in the Evolution of Automation Report.

    The research uncovered six trends:

    1. Skilled labor shortages
    2. Global increase in product demand
    3. Rising demand for flexible manufacturing
    4. Need for more consistent quality
    5. Reducing operating costs
    6. Increased smart machine technology and cobots

    All these factors combine to mean that 2018 is the year when packaging and collaborative robots become inseparable.

     

    The biggest challenge for packaging cobots

    Of course, there are still some roadblocks which stop some companies from adopting cobot packaging into their workflow.

    In another Packaging Digist interview, Mike Fair from Rethink Robotics said that the biggest evolution of cobots (both in packaging and in general) is integration with other technologies, like end-of-arm tooling and smart sensing.

    UR's Daniel Moore agreed with him, bringing attention to their UR+ developer ecosystem which allows peripheral companies (like ourselves) to develop easy-to-integrate add-ons for UR robots.

    In a way, this challenge is actually quite a positive one. It shows that there are now lots of third-party peripherals available for collaborative robots, which means that companies can choose the best products for them.

    However, this challenge also means that robot manufacturers (like UR) must work hand-in-hand with peripheral manufacturers (like us at Robotiq) to ensure that products are easy to integrate. It is this trend which caused us to release our Hand-E gripper alongside the new UR e-Series at this year's Automatica.

     

    Your biggest concerns about cobots

    Although cobots are becoming very popular in packaging, some people still have their reservations.

    Daniel Moore from UR said that the biggest concern from potential cobot users was "How do I make it safe?" Safety is an important factor for packaging tasks particularly when the robot will be operating alongside human workers. It is such a vital aspect of packaging cobots that we covered it in our previous article ISO/TS 15066 for the Real World: Packaging,

    Mike Fair from Rethink Robotics said that the biggest concern from his customers was choosing applications. He said that a common question is “What applications can I deploy [with a cobot] most successfully?”

    We also agree. Picking the right application is vital. You can make the whole robot integration much easier for yourself and your team by picking a simple task for your first cobot deployment. That's why we developed the lean robotics framework, to help businesses to get started with cobots as quickly and easily as possible.

     

    Which industries benefit from packaging cobots

    No matter which industry you are in, packaging probably forms part of your operations. There is potential to apply packaging cobots in a wide variety of industries.

    Four examples of industries which we have covered before on the blog are:

    • Consumer goods — In our article Five Ways Unilever Uses Robots to Keep Up, we explained how consumer goods giant Unilever uses packaging robots to boost product variety and combine different product lines.
    • Craft Brewing — Cobots are a great option for Small to Medium Enterprises where larger forms of automation are too costly. In our article How to Scale-up a Craft Brewery With Robots we explained how cobot packaging can boost productivity in craft breweries without compromising the artisan quality of the product.
    • Food Packaging — The food industry has integrated robotics at almost every stage of production. In our article Top 7 Robotic Applications in Food Packaging we showed how cobots are being used for boxing and palletizing applications.
    • Packing your bags — Do you travel a lot? If so, this fun application might be perfect for you. Our CEO Samual Bouchard found it at a trade fair. It shows a robot using our 3-Finger Gripper to pack the suitcase of the fictional Mr and Mrs Smith. See the video in our article Bored Packing Your Baggage? Adaptive Gripper could be the Solution!)

    From its humble beginnings a few years ago, cobots have now well-and-truly taken hold in the packaging industry.

    Which packaging tasks in your business could you give to a cobot?

    Get started with collaborative robots

    Read more »
  • What's New In Robotics This Week - 10.08.2018

    -Manufacturing & cobot Roundup 
    -AUBO, UR, Yaskawa
    -Move.Ai raises US$3m
    -Walmart + Alert Innovation pilot 
    -Smart skin, 'Vector ,' Brickbot  
    -Meet 'There's Waldo' 
    -And much more! 

     

    Manufacturing & cobot roundup 

    A team of recent University of Tennessee graduates now based at Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus has developed a visual recognition system specially for the arm of AUBO-i5 cobot. 

    636675089503560998-KB-AUBO-0806-BP-4Pic: AUBO Robotics' Peter Farkas demonstrates the new system.  Credit: Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel

    The technology is expected to be used in the field "soon" and is compatible with existing AUBO-i5 cobots, according to reports

    It's an impressive development for the new robotics research facility at Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus, which brings expertise from AUBO, the University of Tennessee, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (among others) together. 

    Meanwhile, Fancort Industries (a Universal Robots system integrator) released video of a cobot performing a screw driving task... 

     

     


    MOV.AI raised US$3 million in seed funding to create an ‘Android for Robotics' --an industry-grade O/S for autonomous intelligent collaborative robots. (H/T TechCrunch.) 

    Yaskawa America released a demo video of its new Smart Pendant for robot programming... 

     

     


    Walmart and warehouse automation startup Alert Innovation announced plans to collaborate on a pilot program to test “first-of-its-kind automation” designed to help associates fill online grocery orders.  The system, which is being installed at a Walmart supercenter in Salem, New Hampshire, will use Alert Innovation's Alphabots to automatically transport items from storage to associates. (H/T AUVSI.) 

    CGTN America reported on the adoption of robots in Brazil’s automotive industry... 

     

     


    Asia is expected to become the largest market for collaborative robots in 4-5 years, according to Jurgen von Hollen, president of Universal Robots.  Speaking at the Taipei International Industrial Automation Exhibition, Hollen noted that demand for cobots is growing faster in Asia than the global average.  (H/T DigiTimes.) 

    The Machining and Robotics Research Team at the University of Nottingham, UK, released video of its 'Continuum Robot,' designed for in-situ repair of aerospace engines... 

     

     

    Car maker Audi and telecoms giant Ericsson are collaborating on a project to test the use of emerging 5G mobile phone and network technology in automotive production.  Via Industry Europe

    "The collaboration aims to investigate the potential of 5G as a future-proof communication technology that meets the high demands of car production. In the second half of 2018, a team of experts from Audi and Ericsson will test a 5G radio cell in a pilot plant at the Audi Production Lab in Gaimersheim [Germany]." 

    This new video provides a nice example of a Before/After scenario where a carton-picking cobot replaced a manual task... 

     

     


    Collaborative warehouse fulfillment solution provider 6 River Systems announced that it has expanded its footprint to nearly 300 robots across 20 sites.  The firm says it's "on track to meet its goal of 600 robots across 30 sites by end of 2018."  (H/T
    BusinessWire.) 

    Industrial robot giant KUKA expects to see "explosive" growth in demand for industrial robots in the Asia-Pacific market, particularly in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, according to reports

    Migatronic showed off its CoWelder cobot system... 

     

     


    The manufacturing industry "exhibits higher-than-normal rates of cyberattack-related reconnaissance and lateral movement activity," warns a new report from AI-powered cyberattack detection experts Vectra.  The primary reasons for manufac.turers being targeted by cybercriminals? Intellectual property theft and business disruption. (H/T MMH.) 

     

    Elsewhere... 

    The University of Texas at Arlington has patented a smart skin created by electrical engineering professor Zeynep Çelik-Butler.

    hairyrobotPic:  The smart skin's sensors are packaged in a chemical and moisture resistant polyimide to enhance usability in harsh environments. Credit: University of Texas at Arlington


    Via PhysOrg:

    "The idea is to have robots work better alongside people," said Çelik-Butler. "The smart skin is actually made up of millions of flexible nanowire sensors that take in so much more information than people's skin. As the sensors brush against a surface, the robot collects all the information those sensors send back."

    Wired explored some of the things robot designers can learn from termites --from the impressive construction abilities displayed by large groups of termites to how social and group intelligence operates.  

    termitePic: A termite takes a break from eating your desk.  Credit: Wikipedia. 

    From the article: 

    "We imagine that the future of autonomous swarms is machinelike perfection and greater control, but moments of unpredictable, Three Stooges–like chaos are also likely to emerge." 

    Anki, the California-based Carnegie Mellon University spin-off behind the popular Cozmo robot, launched a Kickstarter for its new bot 'Vector' this week.  Hanns Tappeiner, co-founder of Anki, said he wants Vector to be like the family dog or cat.  

    anki-vector-2 Pic:  Vector is the latest social robot from Anki.  Credit: Anki. 


    A prototype 'Brickbot' developed by researchers at Autodesk has taught itself how to assemble lego bricks using human-like learning techniques.  (H/T ZDNet.) 

    autodeskPic: The researchers used neural networks to enable the robots to teach themselves. Credit: Via ZDNet.

    Finally, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) announced the end product of its Open Source Rover project this week.  The project features a Mars rover design that has been modified so that enthusiasts can build one at home, if they have about US$2,500 for parts and approximately 200 person hours available.  (H/T IEEE Spectrum.) 

    MzEwNTY3NgPic: NASA JPL's open source rover poses for the camera.  Credit: NASA JPL. 


    I'll be back next week with more robotics news.  Until then... 

    Five vids for Friday 

    1.  Researchers have developed a new fabrication process that enables the design of unique, soft microbots.  To demonstrate the technology, the team created a spider-inspired bot with 18 degrees of freedom (DoF).  With most soft microbots possessing just 1 DoF, this technology could greatly enhance the capabilities of medical robots.  

     

     

     2.  Researchers at the U.S. Army's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies have developed a 3-D printing platform for complex magnetically actuated devices. The team built a 3-D printing platform incorporating an electromagnet nozzle and a new type of 3-D printable ink infused with magnetic particles.  The research could lead to "new biomedical applications, magnetic ink optimized to strengthen soft robotic functionality, and new on-demand flexible material systems," PhysOrg reported. 

     

     

     

    3.   Japanese researchers released video of a lightweight caterpillar-inspired, soft-bodied robot that can crawl along a stick.  The bot features passive-grip/active-release opposable legs and actuation is driven by a shape memory alloy coil.  Clever mechanical design enables the robot to hold position on an unstable substrate without consuming any energy. 

     

     

     

     4.   To describe engineer Masaaki Nagumo as a fan of giant, anime-inspired robots would be an understatement.  Nagumo single-handedly built the 28 feet tall, 5 tonne 'LW Mononofu' -a bot built for --and by-- one.  (H/T designboom.) 

     

     


    5.  'There's Waldo' is a prototype robot built to autonomously find Waldo and point at him. The robot takes a photo of the canvas and then uses OpenCV to find and extract faces.  The faces are sent to the Google Auto ML Vision service which compares each one against the trained Waldo model.  (H/T Gizmodo.) 

     

     
     
    Start production faster with Lean Robotics

     

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  • What's the Next Step Towards Cobots Ease of Use?

    Everybody is talking about collaborative robots and how they can accelerate production lines, boost quality control = product quality and resolve a wide variety of HR issues (lack of manpower, occupational health and safety issues, you name it).

    But many potential users think there're still too complicated to use when you do not have any robotics skills. Here are the latest steps into Robotiq's journey to lower the barriers to automation.

    Program a precise insertion in minutes

    Robotiq’s  FT 300 Force Torque Sensor  new Insertion and Find Surface nodes software update helps you easily program a robot for a precise insertion in minutes. Check out these videos:

     

    Program a precise insertion  in minutes

     

    Machine tending: find your surface in seconds

    Wondering how collaborative robots could be used for factory? Robotiq's Blueprints service allows you to take advantage of our experts’ know-how to build a proof of concept, using collaborative robots, that is just right for your unique production environment or application. 

    Learn more

    Read more »

NASA Breaking News

Space News

Universe Today

  • Carnival of Space #574

    This week’s Carnival of Space is hosted by Allen Versfeld at his Urban Astronomer blog.

    Click here to read Carnival of Space #574.

    And if you’re interested in looking back, here’s an archive to all the past Carnivals of Space. If you’ve got a space-related blog, you should really join the carnival. Just email an entry to susie@wshcrew.space, and the next host will link to it. It will help get awareness out there about your writing, help you meet others in the space community – and community is what blogging is all about. And if you really want to help out, sign up to be a host. Send an email to the above address.

    The post Carnival of Space #574 appeared first on Universe Today.

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  • The Sun is Actually One of the Most Difficult Places to Reach in the Solar System. Here’s how the Parker Solar Probe Will Do It

    When it comes to exploring our Solar System, there are few missions more ambitious than those that seek to study the Sun. While NASA and other space agencies have been observing the Sun for decades, the majority of these missions were conducted in orbit around Earth. To date, the closest any probes have gotten to the Sun were the Helios 1 and 2 probes, which studied the Sun during the 1970s from inside Mercury’s orbit at perihelion.

    NASA intends to change all that with the Parker Solar Probe, the space probe that recently launched from Cape Canaveral, which will revolutionize our understanding of the Sun by entering it’s atmosphere (aka. the corona). Over the next seven years, the probe will use Venus’ gravity to conduct a series of slingshots that will gradually bring it closer the Sun than any mission in the history of spaceflight!

    The spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on Sunday August 12th, from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. At 5:33 a.m., the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and operating normally. Over the course of the next week, it will begin deploying its instruments in preparation for its science mission.

    Once inside the Sun’s corona, the Parker Solar Probe will employ an advanced suite of instruments to revolutionize our understanding of the Sun’s atmosphere and the origin and evolution of solar wind. These and other findings will allow researchers and astronomers to improve their ability to forecast space weather events (such as solar flares), which can cause harm to astronauts and orbiting missions, disrupt radio communications and damage power grids.

    As Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a recent NASA press release:

    “This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe. We’ve accomplished something that decades ago, lived solely in the realm of science fiction.”

    The Parker Probes mission certainly comes with its share of challenges. In addition to the incredible heat it will have to endure, there is also the challenge of simply getting there. This is due to Earth’s orbital velocity, which travels around the Sun at a speed of 30 km/s (18.64 mps) – or about 108,000 km/h (67,000 mph). Cancelling out this velocity and traveling towards the Sun would take 55 times as much energy as it would for a craft to travel to Mars.

    To address this challenge, the Parker Probe has been launched by a very powerful rocket – the ULA Delta IV, which is capable of generating 9,700 kN of thrust. In addition, it will be relying on a series of gravity assists (aka. gravitational slingshots) with Venus. These will consist of the probe conducting flybys of the Sun, then circling around Venus to get a boost in speed from the force of the planet’s gravity, and then slingshoting around the Sun again.

    The launch of the Parker Solar Probe atop a ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 12th, 2018. Credit: Glenn Davis

    Over the course of its seven-year mission, the probe will conduct seven gravity-assists with Venus and will make 24 passes of the Sun, gradually tightening its orbit in the process. Eventually, it will reach a distance of roughly 6 million km (3.8 million mi) from the Sun and fly through it’s atmosphere (aka. corona), effectively getting more than seven times closer than any spacecraft in history. In addition, the probe will be traveling at speeds of roughly 692,000 km/h (430,000 mph), which will set the record for the fastest-moving spacecraft in history.

    During the first week of its journey, the spacecraft will deploy its high-gain antenna and magnetometer boom, which houses the three instruments it will use to study the Sun’s magnetic field. It will also perform the first of a two-part deployment of its five electric field antennas (aka. the FIELDS instrument suite), which will measure the properties of solar wind and help make a three-dimensional picture of the Sun’s electric fields.

    Other instruments aboard the spacecraft include the Wide-Field Imager for Parker Solar Probe (WISPR), the spacecraft’s only imaging instrument. This instrument will take pictures of the large-scale structure of the corona and solar wind before the spacecraft flies through it, capturing such phenomena as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), jets, and other ejecta from the Sun.

    There’s also the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) investigation instrument, which consists of two other instruments – the Solar Probe Cup (SPC) and the Solar Probe Analyzers (SPAN). These will count the most abundant particles in the solar wind – electrons, protons and helium ions – and measure their velocity, density, temperature, and other properties to improve our understanding of solar wind and coronal plasma.

    Then there’s the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun (ISOIS), which relies on the EPI-Lo and EPI-Hi instruments – Energetic Particle Instruments (EPI). Using these two instruments, ISOIS will measure electrons, protons and ions across a wide range of energies to gain a better understanding of where these particles come from, how they became accelerated, and how they move throughout the Solar System.

    In addition to being the first spacecraft to explore the Sun’s corona, the Parker Solar Probe is the first spacecraft named after a living scientist – Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958. As Nicola Fox, the probe’s project scientist at the JHUAPL, indicated:

    “Exploring the Sun’s corona with a spacecraft has been one of the hardest challenges for space exploration. We’re finally going to be able to answer questions about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 – using a spacecraft that bears his name – and I can’t wait to find out what discoveries we make. The science will be remarkable.”

    Dr. Parker was on hand to witness the early morning launch of the spacecraft. In addition to its advanced suite of scientific instruments, the probe also carries a plaque dedicating the mission to Parker. This plaque, which was attached in May, includes a quote from the renowned physicist – “Let’s see what lies ahead” – and a memory card containing more than 1.1 million names submitted by the public to travel with the spacecraft to the Sun.

    Instrument testing will begin in early September and last approximately four weeks, after which the Parker Solar Probe can begin science operations. On September 28th, it will conduct its first flyby of Venus and perform its first gravity assist with the planet by early October. This will cause the spacecraft to assume a 180-day orbit of the Sun, which will bring it to a distance of about 24 million km (15 million mi).

    In the end, the Parker Solar Probe will attempt to answer several long-standing mysteries about the Sun. For instance, why is the Sun’s corona 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, what drives the supersonic solar wind that permeates the entire Solar System, and what accelerates solar energetic particles – which can reach speeds of up to half the speed of light – away from the Sun?

    Close up photo of the ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket’s engines as it launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Glenn Davis

    For sixty years, scientists have pondered these questions, but were unable to answer them since no spacecraft was capable of penetrating the Sun’s corona. Thanks to advances in thermal engineering, the Parker Solar Probe is the first spacecraft that will be able to “touch” the face of the Sun and reveal its secrets. By December, the craft will transmit its first science observations back to Earth.

    As Andy Driesman, the project manager of the Parker Probe mission at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), expressed:

    “Today’s launch was the culmination of six decades of scientific study and millions of hours of effort. Now, Parker Solar Probe is operating normally and on its way to begin a seven-year mission of extreme science.”

    Understanding the dynamics of the Sun is intrinsic to understanding the history of the Solar System and the emergence of life itself. But until now, no mission has been able to get close enough to the Sun to address its greatest mysteries. By the time the Parker Solar Probe’s mission is complete, scientists expect to have learned a great deal about the phenomena that can give rise to life, and disrupt it!

    Further Reading: NASA, Youtube

    The post The Sun is Actually One of the Most Difficult Places to Reach in the Solar System. Here’s how the Parker Solar Probe Will Do It appeared first on Universe Today.

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  • As the Martian Dust Storm Subsides, There’s Still No Word From Opportunity

    Martian dust storms are a pretty common occurrence, and generally happen whenever the southern hemisphere is experiencing summer. Though they can begin quite suddenly, these storms typically stay contained to a local area and last only about a few weeks. However, on occasion, Martian dust storms can grow to become global phenomena, covering the entire planet.

    One such storm began back in May, starting in the Arabia Terra region and then spreading to become a planet-wide dust storm within a matter of weeks. This storm caused the skies over the Perseverance Valley, where the Opportunity rover is stationed, to become darkened, forcing the rover into hibernation mode. And while no word has been heard from the rover, NASA recently indicated that the dust storm will dissipate in a matter of weeks.

    The update was posted by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, which oversees operations for the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, as well as NASA’s three Mars orbiters (Mars Odyssey, MRO, and MAVEN) and the Insight lander (which will land on Mars in 109 days). According to NASA, the storm is beginning to end, though it may be weeks or months before the skies are clear enough for Opportunity to exit its hibernation mode.

    This global map of Mars shows a growing dust storm as of June 6, 2018. The map was produced by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. The blue dot indicates the approximate location of Opportunity. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

    As noted, dust storms occur on Mars when the southern hemisphere experiences summer, which coincides with the planet being closer to the Sun in its elliptical orbit. Due to increased temperatures, dust particles are lifted higher into the atmosphere, creating more wind. The resulting wind kicks up yet more dust, creating a feedback loop that NASA scientists are still trying to understand.

    Since the southern polar region is pointed towards the Sun in the summer, carbon dioxide frozen in the polar cap evaporates. This has the effect of thickening the atmosphere and increasing the surface pressure, which enhances the process by helping suspend dust particles in the air. In some cases, the dust clouds can reach up to 60 km (40 mi) or more in elevation.

    Planet-wide dust storms are a relatively rare occurrence on Mars, taking place every three to four Martian years (the equivalent of approximately 6 to 8 Earth years). Such storms have been viewed many times in the past by missions like Mariner 9 (1971), Viking I (1971) and the Mars Global Surveyor (2001). In 2007, a similar storm took place that darkened the skies over where Opportunity was stationed – which led to two weeks of minimal operations and no communications.

    While smaller and less intense the storm that took place back in 2007, the current storm intensified to the point where it led to a level of atmospheric opacity that is much worse than the 2007 storm. In effect, the amount of dust in the atmosphere created a state of perpetual night over the rover’s location in Perseverance Valley, which forced the rover’s science team to suspend operations.

    Simulated views of a darkening Martian sky blotting out the Sun from NASA’s Opportunity rover’s point of view, with the right side simulating Opportunity’s view in the global dust storm as of June 2018. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/TAMU

    This is due to the fact that Opportunity – unlike the Curiosity rover, which runs on nuclear-powered battery – relies on solar panels to keep its batteries charged. But beyond suspending operations, the prolonged dust storm also means that the rover might not be to keep its energy-intensive survival heaters running – which protect its batteries from the extreme cold of Mars’ atmosphere.

    Luckily, NASA scientists who have been observing the global event indicated that, as of last Monday (July 23rd), more dust was falling out of the planet’s thin air than was being raised into it. This means that the global weather event has reached its decay phase, where dust-raising events either become confined to smaller areas or stop altogether.

    Using its Mars Color Imager (MARCI) and Mars Climate Sounder (MCS), NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) also noted surface features were beginning to reappear and that temperatures in the middle atmosphere were no longer rising – which indicates less solar heating by dust. The Curiosity rover also noted a decline in dust above its position in the Gale Crater on the other side of the planet.

    This is certainly good new for the Opportunity rover, though scientists expect that it will still be a few weeks or months before its solar panels can draw power again and communications can be reestablished. The last time communications took place with the rover was on June 10th, but if there’s one thing the Opportunity rover is known for, it’s endurance!

    When the rover first landed on Mars on January 25th, 2004, its mission was only expected to last ninety Martian days (sols), which is the equivalent of about 92.5 Earth days. However, as of the writing of this article, the rover has endured for 14 years and 195 days, effectively exceeding its operational lifespan 55 times over. So if any rover can survive this enduring dust storm, its Opportunity!

    In the meantime, multiple NASA missions are actively monitoring the storm in support of Opportunity and to learn more about the mechanics of Martian storms. By learning more about what causes these storms, and how smaller ones can merge to form global events, future robotic missions, crewed missions and (quite possibly) Martian colonists will be better prepared to deal with them.

    Further Reading: NASA

    The post As the Martian Dust Storm Subsides, There’s Still No Word From Opportunity appeared first on Universe Today.

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European Space Agency Articles

  • Ein warnender Schweif

    Der Komet Swift-Tuttle hinterlässt eine Staubspur - der Grund für den jährlichen Perseiden-Meteorstrom und eine Erinnerung daran, wie verletzlich unsere Erde im All ist Read more »
  • Presseeinladung: Start der Wind-Mission Aeolus am 21. August

    Die Aeolus-Mission, bei der eine revolutionäre Lasertechnologie zur Messung von Winden rund um die Erde zum Einsatz kommt, wird am 21. August von Europas Raumflughafen Kourou in Französisch-Guayana aus ins All aufbrechen. Medienvertreter sind eingeladen, den Start des jüngsten Erdforschungssatelliten im Europäischen Raumflugkontrollzentrum (ESOC) in Darmstadt mitzuverfolgen.

    Read more »
  • Die Vega-C-Rakete: Dank Kohlefaser leichter ins All

    In wenigen Monaten wird die neue Vega-Rakete ins All geschossen. Sie besteht aus Kohlefaser. In diesem Bericht erfahren Sie mehr über diese Technologie.

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