Recharging rovers — how batteries enable (and limit) our exploration of Mars and beyond


“My battery is low and it’s getting dark” — this poetic translation of the Mars Opportunity rover’s final transmission describes the rover’s struggle to recharge itself after its solar panels were covered by dust during a windstorm.

Though Opportunity outlived its projected lifetime by over 14 years, advances in battery technology could have kept the rover running even longer. Out of all the parts that could have failed, the battery’s struggle to store and conserve energy proved to be Opportunity’s downfall.

It’s not just Opportunity — believe it or not, batteries are actually a major stumbling block for our exploration of space.

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