Electrical power is critical for exploring Mars—it keeps radios, computers, and scientific instruments working on Mars lander and rover missions. Electrical power systems must survive Mars’ harsh environment, where temperature extremes, dust storms and high radiation levels from space present challenges to spacecraft systems that must operate long enough for missions to accomplish their scientific goals. Currently, two kinds of electrical power systems are considered—a combination of solar arrays and batteries, and radioisotope power systems.
Few missions can match the achievements of NASA's groundbreaking Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft during their 40 years of exploration. Here's a short list of their major accomplishments to date.
Humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, achieve 40 years of operation and exploration this August and September. Despite their vast distance, they continue to communicate with NASA daily, still probing the final frontier.
A cutting-edge development in spacecraft power systems is a class of materials with an unfamiliar name: skutterudites (skut-ta-RU-dites). Researchers are studying the use of these advanced materials in a proposed next-generation power system called an eMMRTG, which stands for Enhanced Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator.
Ulysses, a joint NASA and European Space Agency mission, officially ceased operations today, after receiving commands from ground controllers to do so.