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I had just read this article about how they were trying to figure out how to make a vibrating superconductor move in 1 direction, for propulsion, but it didn't sound too promising. So I thought of dust-shaking. Is vibration useful in shaking off Mars dust?

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Yes, it would be, of course. I'm not sure why you'd need a superconductor for that though, when a lot simpler technologies such as piezoelectric, electrostatic, sonic (basically a "subwoofer"), compressed air, or other types of mechanical drives could be used. Also, simple rotation of solar panels should help too, and let the gravity do the rest, if that's permissible by the rover's design. And sometimes, even weather helps. With MER (Spirit and Opportunity) rovers, when they were caught into a dust storm, solar panels of one (don't remember which one) were cleaned by it, and the other one's were made even worse. So that's perhaps a bit moot point, but it goes to show that there's sufficient atmospheric pressure on Mars to somehow take advantage of winds there too with suitable design, say by designing them to be more flexible, e.g. by using thin-film solar cells.

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    $\begingroup$ Opportunity cleaner, Spirit dustier after the planet-wide dust storm. That eventually did in Spirit. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Jan 25 '14 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ In addition, electrostatic repulsion can be used to lift dust off the panels, and then gravity (when tilted) or very light winds can remove it. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Jan 25 '14 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkAdler Cheers! Yes, I mentioned electrostatic methods, tho I didn't go in much detail, there's just so many ways to do that, and I wouldn't know where to start. E.g. off the top of my head, use of long bimetal elements coupled with heating elements or stretching over surfaces of variable thermal characteristics could be another way. $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Jan 25 '14 at 17:35
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The Mars rovers do not have any dust removing technology. And Opportunity worked fine for 10 years, so the dust problem should not be exaggerated. It is worse on the Moon (and on any asteroid) where there's no atmosphere which has eroded the dust. The regolith on the Moon is very fine, sharp as glass and sticky because of its electrostatic charge. The Apollo astronauts could not avoid bringing it into their lander, and it was even found in their lungs when they had returned to Earth. Thanks to the atmosphere of Mars the dust there is much less dangerous. (But could be full of poisonous chloride salts).

On the Moon the electrostatically charged (by the cosmic and solar radiation) dust which hoovers above ground might very well we removed/collected by a charged "broom" which sweeps over the ground. But the dust on Mars is more like the sand we know on earth.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, 90 days was the official plan. Maybe that indicates that the dust problem wasn't all that bad. Engineers always complain and exaggerate problems, even about such a ridiculous thing as dust... :-P $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Jan 25 '14 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ They did have some precautions for contaminations, but they went in and out of their lander and got dressed and undressed. I bet they left hair on the Moon! A space suit with a suit port seems to be the solution, the outside of the suit never gets in contact with the humans inside it: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suitport $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Jan 25 '14 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ JPL says dust is a big problem on Mars but some was blown off by wind, & that the rovers held up so long due to good craftsmanship & operation: JPL on Youtube $\endgroup$ – Space Librarian Jan 25 '14 at 11:23
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    $\begingroup$ The dust on Mars is not like Earth sand. Not even close. Sand particles are a few hundred microns in size, whereas Mars dust is single digit microns. Two orders of magnitude smaller. The behavior is completely different, especially with regard to being suspended in the atmosphere and sticking due to Van der Waals forces. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Jan 25 '14 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ The dust problem is not worse on the Moon, since there is no atmosphere, and so almost no suspended, falling dust. Solar panels on the Moon can only accumulate was is kicked up by the device it is on (e.g. wheels), or electrostatically. On Mars the dust accumulation is continuous and relentless. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Jan 25 '14 at 17:23

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