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The Straight Soap

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Editor Phillip Lawless isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and give you the straight soap on what he sees and hears in the world of carwashing.

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Blog: NASA performs ‘carwash’ on Mars

October 18, 2012
KEYWORDS grit / sand / solar panels
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MARS — After years of poring over H.G. Wells and Ray Bradbury novels, after numerous late-night viewings of cheesy sci-fi movies with saucers and ray guns, the opportunity to write a story with Mars in the dateline has finally arrived.

Sure, no one has declared war on the planet earth, and little green aliens are nowhere to be seen, but it has proven to be an interesting story none the less. Believe it or not, just days ago, a form of vehicle cleaning came to the surface of the lonely red planet.

NASA chose to do something surprising with the first scoop of Martian sand collected by the Curiosity rover, according to TG Daily. An Oct. 12 story quoted Chris Roumeliotis, the lead turret rover planner, “Yestersol, we used Curiosity’s first perfectly scooped sample for cleaning the interior surfaces of our 150-micron sample-processing chambers. It’s our version of a Martian carwash.”

Missing NASA telescope found at TX carwash

Yet, this is not NASA’s first reference to carwashing on Mars. In 2004, there were two NASA rovers probing the surface of Mars. As the rovers moved, their solar panels ended up covered with heavy Martian dirt.

The two rovers were in different areas, and one mysteriously had layers or dirt removed from its panels at night. The other rover’s panels remained dirty.

Is NASA really hosting a carwash?

The chief scientist for those rover missions was Steve Squyres of Cornell University. In a 2004 interview, he chuckled at a carwashing reference. However, he acknowledged that Opportunity, unlike its twin Spirit rover on the other side of the Red Planet, had somehow received a thorough cleaning.

“Spirit’s pretty dirty,” Squyres told in 2004. “Opportunity looks like it just came off the showroom floor. We do not understand the process well. I think it’s probably nothing much more mysterious than a few well-timed gusts of wind.”

Read the Mars stories here and here.