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Mars Rover "Spirit" In Danger

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the my-kingdom-for-a-sunbeam dept.

Mars 222

Riding with Robots writes "Just days after announcing that the Mars Phoenix Lander has met its icy demise, NASA reports that a dust storm has left the rover Spirit on the edge of power failure. During one recent Martian day, the robotic geologist's solar array produced only 89 watt hours of energy, the lowest output by either rover in their nearly five years on Mars. Mission managers are taking steps to protect the hardy, battle-worn spacecraft, but the agency describes Spirit's status as 'vulnerable.'"

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Only 89 watt hours of energy (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25735715)

This has required mission managers to shut down the dual graphics cards and switch to the integrated graphics. Really sad.

Re:Only 89 watt hours of energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25735763)

But don't forget they have to LOG OFF first, and restart all applications.

Re:Only 89 watt hours of energy (2, Interesting)

iamwhoiamtoday (1177507) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736355)

actually... if you look at performance and power consumption... it would make sense to run advanced tasks on graphics cards (GPGPUs) then on processors...

Those Martians are crafty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25735719)

Secretly sabotaging all of our probes by use of their weather control system? Genius. I don't know how we'll ever be able to invade.

Re:Those Martians are crafty (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735811)

They have buyer's remorse after trading all their land for a single bead.

Re:Those Martians are crafty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736509)

Heap big buyer's remorse

Re:Those Martians are crafty (1)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736293)

weather control system

That is NOTHING compared to the Halliburton Hurricane Machine [everyzing.com] .

Re:Those Martians are crafty (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737079)

Heh, say what you will about the George W. Bush administration, but the one thing they did right was ensure that our space programs kept runnin'.

Hrm (5, Funny)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735759)

Can you really call a rover a "spacecraft"? That is kind of like dipping my car in the ocean and call it a boat.

Re:Hrm (2, Insightful)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735803)

-er calling, not call and it is more like saying my car is a boat because it traveled across the ocean on a freighter.

Re:Hrm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736697)

Can you really call a rover a "spacecraft"? That is kind of like dipping my car in the ocean and call it a boat.

Aren't cars a little hard to din the ocean?

Re:Hrm (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737031)

Well, that IS the only way you will find out if your car is aquatic or not(bonus points for getting the reference)

It's been a good run (4, Insightful)

danaris (525051) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735775)

It would be very sad to see Spirit run out of power, but honestly, both the rovers have performed so far beyond their original expectations, it's astounding. I seem to recall they were originally meant for something like a two-month mission...four years ago.

So if we do lose Spirit soon, for my part, I think we can be satisfied with what it's already accomplished.

Dan Aris

Re:It's been a good run (1)

ratnerstar (609443) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735953)

Yeah, Spirit has definitely done well. Still, it's sad to see the thing die right before they release a major motion picture about it [imdb.com] . The timing has a real Obama's-grandmother vibe, you know?

Re:It's been a good run (2, Informative)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736029)

The timing has a real Obama's-grandmother vibe, you know?

Did Obama's grandmother have wheels? If so, they'd have called her a wagon.

Re:It's been a good run (5, Funny)

Paradise Pete (33184) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736393)

Did Obama's grandmother have wheels? If so, they'd have called her a wagon.

Well they did call her an ambulance.

Re:It's been a good run (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736571)

Obama's-grandmother vibe

I don't want to think or know about any grandmother's vibe
/shudder

Re:It's been a good run (2, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736835)

Adds an ending for the movie?

Re:It's been a good run (2, Interesting)

CMF Risk (833574) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735999)

Think next time they'll add a cleaning brush attachment for the arm?

Re:It's been a good run (5, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736001)

Both rovers were designed for a 90 Mars day (sol) mission. The difference between Earth days and Mars days is that sols are 24.6 hours long. Opportunity is on Sol 1710 or so and Spirit is on Sol 1730. Both rovers have lasted almost 20 times longer than originally designed.

Not to be pedantic but... (5, Informative)

mykepredko (40154) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737261)

The two rovers were not designed to work for 90 days.

They were guaranteed to work for 90 days.

The various components were designed to work no matter what they experienced for 90 days on the Martian surface.

I suspect that they were designed for the worst possible set of circumstances for 90 days which has allowed them to operate for the much longer time in the actual environment which is more benign than the worst case scenario.

Regardless of the semantics of the 90 days, the time the two robots have been operating is still an amazing achievement and everybody involved should be very proud.

myke

Martian Hoopties (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736525)

I got modded "troll" once for calling them that once, but the fact is they were designed for six month's use. They've been rolling around Mars for five years now. That's like an automobile with a ten year warrantee still running after fifty years without maintenance - in other words, a hooptie. It's not a slam, in this case it's a compliment.

I wish the guys who engineered the rovers would engineer cars. The rovers are simply amazing.

Re:It's been a good run (1)

SnoopJeDi (859765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737129)

While I agree...

Sometimes, the difference between good work and great work is satisfaction or lack thereof.

I imagine the guys at NASA haven't been thinking "well gosh, we sure got lucky with it lasting that long." It's probably something along the lines of "OK, but how much further could we go?"

Re:It's been a good run (1)

javelinco (652113) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737265)

Be careful! Saying "Mission Accomplished" just means they'll change the mission parameters on you!

Re:It's been a good run (3, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737273)

It would be very sad to see Spirit run out of power, but honestly, both the rovers have performed so far beyond their original expectations, it's astounding

Here's the things one or both rovers have survived so far:

* Full flash memory
* Non-rotating wheel
* Dusty solar panels
* Stuck in dust dunes
* Two winters (very cold)
* Going down and up steep crater slopes
* A global dust-storm that put power at the edge (about a year ago)
* Broken joint motor
* Power leak

That's nine. If they follow feline conventions, then number 10 will be it.
     

Not a problem (2, Funny)

wicka (985217) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735787)

Spirit and Opportunity simply cannot be broken. I wouldn't worry about it.

Winter? (4, Interesting)

chebucto (992517) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735797)

Isn't this just an effect of reduced sunlight during winter? Or is Spirit near the equator / other hemisphere? I know the Phoenix shutdown is at least partly due to seasonal changes

From the Press Release:

"NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has ceased communications
after operating for more than five months. As anticipated, seasonal
decline in sunshine at the robot's arctic landing site is not
providing enough sunlight for the solar arrays to collect the power
necessary to charge batteries that operate the lander's instruments."

Re:Winter? (3, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736121)

Or is Spirit near the equator / other hemisphere? I know the Phoenix shutdown is at least partly due to seasonal changes

Much closer to equator with a combination of winter (expected), dust storm (happens) and wear (by now) ganging up on it but it's in a "survivable" range. Phoenix was sent to the arctic region and never expected to survive winter AFAIK.

Re:Winter? (4, Informative)

ScottMaxwell (108831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736333)

Isn't this just an effect of reduced sunlight during winter? Or is Spirit near the equator / other hemisphere? I know the Phoenix shutdown is at least partly due to seasonal changes

Time of year plays into it, certainly; this would be less worrisome at the height of summer. But it's not quite the dead of winter, either (solstice was something like 150 sols ago), so it could be worse.

Spirit is a little farther from the equator than her twin sister, Opportunity, so winters hit her somewhat harder than they hit Opportunity anyway. (Phoenix is at something like 60 degrees N latitude -- much farther than either rover.) On top of that, she was pretty well dust-covered already, thanks to a previous dust storm and the regular old ongoing dust-deposition process -- dust was blocking about 70% of the light hitting her solar arrays before this storm hit.

It's possible for this to turn out to be good news. Dust storms are caused by (and, in a classic feedback loop, cause) high winds, so it's possible that the winds will actually clean Spirit off and she'll end up better than she was before. Keep your fingers crossed.

Re:Winter? (2, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736459)

If the solar panels get enoug sunlight, does anyone know if it's possible the rovers will "reboot?"

Re:Winter? (2, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737067)

That's what never made sense to me. Seems like all it would take is a low voltage cutoff circuit that shuts off power to everything as long as the voltage is below a threshold voltage, and then when the power comes back on, it would boot back up. In fact, most modern battery technologies require such safety measures to prevent the battery charge from getting so low that the batteries won't take a charge (or the cells reverse polarity like NiCd batteries have a habit of doing). I guess there's still the issue of whether the batteries will fail to operate if they get too cold....

Re:Winter? (1)

Temkin (112574) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737181)

The problem is, they need to keep themselves warm. Once the internal heaters are powered off, the batteries and electronics freeze up. It's cold enough on Mars that the differential expansion rates of the chip dies and the substrates they're mounted on will crack the chips. Once that happens, they're done.

Different Hemispheres (5, Interesting)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736785)

It's fall in the northern hemisphere of Mars where Phoenix is located, so it dying was entirely expected, and although it lasted longer than its mission, they were hoping to get a few more weeks out of it. Landing was just a month before the summer solstice, so it had 30 days of conditions that started good and improved, then 130 days of declining conditions. Since it's in the arctic circle, it had complete daylight until a month or two ago, when the sun started setting again.

Spirit and Opportunity, however, are in the southern hemisphere, and it's early spring. Between the dust on Spirit's solar panels and being about 12 degrees further from the equator than Opportunity, things got a little worrisome for Spirit over the winter, but her minimum power levels at that time were over twice the 89 Watt-hours quoted in the article.

Low power is slightly less of a concern now than it was then, because the surface temperature should be higher and so electronics should need less heating, but that huge drop in power is probably more than enough to make up the difference. The other potential positive factor is Spirit's batteries had a decent level of charge when the storm started, so if the storm dissipates quickly they'll probably be in the clear. Trying to maintain 89 W-hr for several months, however, could very easily be fatal, so they're trying to use an absolute minimum of power to keep her out of fault mode.

Spirit actually hadn't moved an inch for several months to save power until a week or two ago. Her team had parked her on a sloped rock face at about a 30 degree angle to square her solar panels to the noon sun over the winter, and because of relatively clear skies, she was even able to take a high resolution panorama [nasa.gov] (link is to an index, not directly to the giant 42 MB image) and do some stationary science. As the sun angle increased, they had just started inching back towards a 20 degree tilt to follow it when the dust storm hit. There's a rather dramatic picture of what that 30 degree tilt [nasa.gov] looks like on the program site.

As of the last report I've seen, the atmosphere is 69% opaque due to suspended dust (although I believe more than 31% of the sunlight diffuses through indirectly), and the dust coating on Spirit's solar panels is only letting through 32% of of the sunlight that actually reaches them. In the past they'd had good luck with winds cleaning the panels off, but that hasn't happened in a while. The team is hoping that the same seasonal weather that brings on these dust storms will generate a few lucky dust devils.

Opportunity, on the other side of the planet meanwhile, has been getting 500-600 Watt-hours and averaging about 50 meters per day of progress towards the huge crater Endeavor, which is 12 km away.

And what nutjob modded the parent as a troll? Sheesh! And to think we probably let that person vote, too.

Oh Great. (0, Troll)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735819)

Now we're going to be hearing from the environmentalists about all this littering we're doing on another planet. I hear there is an organization forming called "Redpeace".

Anonymous Coward (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25735867)

Perhaps they should have included a 'solar cell wipper assembly' (Patent Pending) to wipe the dust off???

Re:Anonymous Coward (3, Informative)

andawyr (212118) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736141)

This was thought about, and discarded. While on the surface it seems like a good idea, in actuality it's incredibly difficult to implement, since the dust on Mar's is so 'sticky' - from what I've read elsewhere, the electrostatic charge of the dust on Mars is very high, and any attempt to scrape it off the solar panels would just move it around, not really remove it.

Besides, with a two month life expectancy, I think it was determined that they wouldn't need to remove any dust from the solar panels since the rovers would have long since died...

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

605dave (722736) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737241)

What I wonder is why not use a blower? I understand why wipers are a good idea. But since the dust can obviously be cleared by wind, why not just use a fan to create the wind?

Given my complete lack of any engineering knowledge, I may be missing something. But if I can get a solar power fan in my souvenir Six Flag hat, couldn't the next rover have a something similar?

Re:Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736161)

'solar cell wipper assembly' (Patent Pending)

Shampoo was here.

Re:Anonymous Coward (4, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736285)

NASA probably thought of that, but the issue is how practical any wiper system would be. Unlike automobile wipers, there's no air or water supply to remove the dust. Adding a system to compress air would have added unacceptable weight to the rover and every little bit counts (even if would work reliably under Mars conditions). A water system would have been out of the question. A waterless/airless system then depends on the material you would use. Such a material would have be softer than the panels or they would damage them; however, a softer material (rubber, polypropylene, polyethylene) probably would not survive the extreme conditions of Mars.

And that's just the survivability aspects. Now factoring the usability aspects: Some sort of arm would have to be long enough to reach all the panels. None of the rovers arms can extend that far so they would have to have been modified. This might add weight and complexity.

Probably the biggest reason why NASA didn't put one in was the rovers were designed for 90 sol missions. Having them last 5 years is a bonus. Along the way, the Rover team has dealt with the problems that have come with extending the mission beyond the original parameters: wheels no longer work, tools no longer function, dust storms limit power usage, etc. This is one issue that they knew would eventually cause the rovers to cease functioning after a few years.

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736803)

Pardon my ignorance, but I couldn't help but notice the horizontal positioning of the panels. Is there a reason (such as angle of the sun) why there weren't at least some panels positioned at a sloping angle to allow dust to slide off? Or is the dust too sticky for it to make a difference?

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736963)

Probably the biggest reason why NASA didn't put one in was the rovers were designed for 90 sol missions. Having them last 5 years is a bonus

Yes, people don't tend to realize the cost and redundancy required to design a mission to last for years on another planet. Basically every such mission is designed for 90 days or less and you hope to get a lot more.

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736475)

Actually, NASA scientist were (positively) surprised when they found out that solar panels can be cleaned by "dust devils" that happen with a certain frequency in Mars.

This has happened at least one time to the rovers.

So, it's just a matter of waiting, if Spirit runs out of power, no big deal, it will stop working, and then if it gets cleaned, it will come back again.

Re:Anonymous Coward (2, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736719)

So, it's just a matter of waiting, if Spirit runs out of power, no big deal, it will stop working, and then if it gets cleaned, it will come back again.

If the batteries are completely drained, Spirit will probably never run again. Both rovers need a certain amount of power to run their heaters. The heaters keep the sensitive electronics from freezing. The loss of power means that the loss of the electronics. During the previous dust storm, the rovers were put into power save mode to outlast the storms. It worked last time but this time they may not survive.

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

timster (32400) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736755)

If Spirit loses power for too long and can't run its warmers, fragile components like the batteries will fail permanently due to cold.

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736851)

I think once the rovers can't run their internal heaters various vital parts will freeze and they will die for good.

As long as the self destruct still works (2, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735869)

We can't allow it to fall into the hands of the damn Sandpeople.

Oh Noes (0, Redundant)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735909)

Looks like any future rovers should come equipped with windshield wipers.

benefits of a dust storm (1)

sdemjanenko (1296903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735913)

Well I for one hope the rovers survive, Cornell would certainly be sad if either of them dies. As for the dust storms, there have been previous dust storms which have actually cleared off the solar panels which then allowed the rovers to produce more power. So if Spirit survives, it might be better for it.

Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (5, Interesting)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735925)

Viking 1 - orbiter + lander - dead and dead (fuel leak, battery)
Viking 2 - orbiter + lander - dead and dead (out of gas, bad software update)

Pathfinder - lander - lost contact in 12 weeks.
Sojourner - rover - lost contact in 12 weeks.

Spirit - rover - critically low power, busted wheel
Opportunity - rover - still roving strong

Phoenix - rover - dead, but we're still listening

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736041)

Phoenix is not a rover.

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736199)

But it is a lander.

OP forgot to mention Beagle II, which was lost before reaching Mars.

Also forgot to mention the Mars Climate Orbiter (metric screwup) and the Mars Polar Lander, which was lost during landing.

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736439)

There's also the Mars Global Surveyor (http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/ [nasa.gov] ), which died (probably of battery failure) after 4x longer life than expected.

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (1)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736069)

Phoenix - rover - dead, but we're still listening

I hear a movie plot! I'm already camping out for tickets.

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (5, Funny)

naz404 (1282810) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736319)

Ah, Rover Phoenix... such a loss at such a young age...

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (5, Funny)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736109)

Hmm... the only constant I see there is that the equipment with names that are based on motivational posters are still going.

I propose the next landers be named:
Success
Achievement
Teamwork
StopShrink

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (3, Funny)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736701)

Hmm... the only constant I see there is that the equipment with names that are based on motivational posters are still going.

Novelty poster publisher Despair, Inc. today announced a surprise entry in to the unmanned space probe arena. A spokesperson for the company commented, "NASA pretty much threw down the gauntlet with all those names."

Represenatives for the company went on to say that their first probe had already been named. "It's called Apathy. We've already began production." When pressed for details, the company spokesperson continued to note that "...actual construction of the probe has halted as neither the design team nor the construction crew could be bothered to finish it. Operations has decided that if they can't be given a finished probe, well, there's just no reason to even bother thinking about a launch and have scrubbed any additional work on Apathy." The spokesperson went on to proudly announce that Despair had already achieved their first non-launch to date and are eagerly looking forward to their program's next success.

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736163)

You're taking a NASA centric perspective there; and, even still, you're missing a whole bunch of orbiters...

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736375)

Beagle 2 - lander - LOC during landing, dead

Mars Climate Orbiter - Orbiter - confused pounds and newtons, lost during aerobraking for Mars orbital insertion.

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736539)

Your bare listing of their fates obscures one important point - each and every one of those missions exceeded their design lifetimes. Even Phoenix, which was designed to last only three months, survived nearly five months.

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736869)

The Viking 1 lander was killed by a software error - they had cut staffing to a few people, and they got out of the habit of testing the software before it was uploaded.

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25737047)

Pathfinder - lander - lost contact in 12 weeks. Sojourner - rover - lost contact in 12 weeks.

One interesting little bit of trivia about this joint mission, which was only designed to last for 40 days, is that the Sojourner rover depended on the Pathfinder lander, which carried it down, to relay communications to earth. Pathfinder died first, leaving the poor little Sojourner all on its own, but probably still functional.

In the event of losing contact, the rover was programmed to try to drive back to where it remembered the lander being and circle it, on the assumption a rock or something was blocking the signal. Last year the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter photographed and clearly identified Pathfinder, but Sojourner is small enough they aren't sure if they spotted it or not. It's probably a little black spec barely visible halfway between the lander and where it was when contact was lost, meaning it died shortly afterwards. It's impossible to be sure, however, and one of the team members has proposed the whimsical but fun idea that it got confused about its position and took off in a straight line across the country-side. It could be over a kilometer away by now.

Go WALL-E...err...I mean Sojourner!

Re:Mars Rovers, Landers, and Orbiters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25737083)

Phoenix - lander - dead, but we're still listening

There, fixed that for you.

Mission Accomplished (4, Insightful)

Java Commando (726093) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735957)

Indeed, Spirit can legitimately unfurl a "Mission Accomplished" banner, now.

And have no regrets about it.

Wipers (-1, Redundant)

ruiner13 (527499) | more than 5 years ago | (#25735985)

Why didn't NASA include a device similar to windshield wipers on the solar panels? It seems that they knew mars was dusty, and it would be a simple thing to add (I'd imagine). Solar panels getting dusty? Turn on the wipers to dust them off!

Re:Wipers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736103)

This has been discussed to death on Slashdot several times over the years.

Re:Wipers (2, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736205)

Why didn't NASA include a device similar to windshield wipers on the solar panels? It seems that they knew mars was dusty, and it would be a simple thing to add (I'd imagine).

You'd be wrong. You can find the details in the hundreds of posts on the subject over the last years, in short they figured more scientific equipment would be more valuable.

Re:Wipers (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736353)

And there are too many factors that would have made wipers impractical especially for what was originally a 90 sol mission.

Re:Wipers (3, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736209)

This has been covered before... Anyway, here's the deal: 1.) The wiper would add weight and cost. 2.) The wiper would require power. 3.) The wiper would eventually wear out. 4.) The wiper might get stuck mid-"wipe", blocking the solar energy incident on the panels. 5.) The wiper would scratch the surface of the solar panel, reducing the amount of absorbed light. Either 4 or 5 would reduce the amount of power generated.

Re:Wipers (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737035)

Not to mention 6.) It likely wouldn't be fantastically effective given the "super static cling" effect of the dust they're dealing with.

Time for the Government to step in... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736037)

And give Spirit a 700 Billion dollar bailout..

The Spirit rover is dying (0)

Malevolent Tester (1201209) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736081)

It is official; NASA now confirms: The Spirit rover is dying

One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered Mars exploration community when NASA confirmed that the rover's power level has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent. Coming close on the heels of the recent Phoenix Lander failure, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. The Spirit is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by a story on Slashdot regarding its power failures.

You don't need to be a Kreskin to predict the Spirit rover's future. The hand writing is on the wall: the Spirit rover faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for the Spirit rover because the Spirit rover is dying. Things are looking very bad for the Spirit rover. As many of us are already aware, the Spirit rover continues to lose power. Machine oil flows like a river of blood.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

NASA states that there are 89 watt hours of energy. How much energy is required each day? Let's see. There are heaters including one that protects a science instrument, the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, as well as communications equipment. Now NASA has had to switch all these off.

Due to the troubles of metric/imperial conversion and so on, the Beagle Probe crashed and attention was taken over by the Phoenix Lander. Now the Phoenix Lander is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another rusting hulk.

All major surveys show that the Spirit rover has steadily declined in power. the Spirit rover is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. The Spirit rover continues to decay. Nothing short of a Martians with batteries could save the Spirit rover from its fate at this point in time. For all practical purposes, the Spirit rover is dead.

Re:The Spirit rover is dying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736551)

Nothing short of a Martians with batteries could save the Spirit rover from its fate at this point in time.

They could just do us a favor and wipe off the solar panels for us.

Cue GlaDOSs' voice in the thin martian atmosphere (1, Funny)

VMaN (164134) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736083)

This was a triumph
I'm making a note here: ====HUGE SUCCESS====
It's hard to overstate my satisfaction

It's hard to overstate
My satisfaction.

Aperture Science;
We do what we must,
Because we can.

For the good of all of us.
Except the ones who are dead.

But there's no sense crying
Over every mistake.
You just keep on trying
Till you run out of cake.
And the science gets done,
And you make a neat gun
For the people who are
Still alive.

I'm not even angry...
I'm being so sincere right now -
Even though you broke my heart,
And killed me.

And tore me to pieces.
And threw every piece into a fire.
As they burned it hurt because
I was so happy for you!

Now, these points of data
Make a beautiful line.
And we're out of BETA.
We're releasing on time!
So I'm GLaD, I got burned -
Think of all the things we learned -
For the people who are
Still alive.

(Go ahead and leave me...)
(I think I'd prefer to stay inside...)
(Maybe you'll find someone else
To help you?)
Maybe Black Mesa?
That was a joke! HAHA! FAT CHANCE!

Anyway this cake is great!
It's so delicious and moist!

Look at me; still talking
When there's science to do!
When I look out there,
It makes me GLaD I'm not you.

I've experiments to run.
There is research to be done,
On the people who are
Still alive.
And believe me I am
Still alive.
I'm doing science and I'm
Still alive.
I feel fantastic and I'm
Still alive.
While you're dying I'll be
Still alive.
And when you're dead I will be
Still alive.

Still alive.

Still alive.

5 years is still pretty good (1)

suso (153703) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736143)

considering that my dishwasher back on Earth only lasted 3. I wouldn't have expected their lander to last for that long.

Re:5 years is still pretty good (2, Funny)

daniduclos (1329089) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736303)

considering that my dishwasher back on Earth only lasted 3. I wouldn't have expected their lander to last for that long.

Your kitchen conditions are worst than the Martian conditions, I'm afraid... :)

Re:5 years is still pretty good (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736519)

Well, considering your dishwasher didn't cost hundreds of millions of dollars...

Re:5 years is still pretty good (1)

machine321 (458769) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736751)

You don't know that, it could be a Pentagon dishwasher.

Options (5, Funny)

florescent_beige (608235) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736185)

1. An 89 watt-hour high-speed dash to blow the dust off. By my calculations they should be able to go 6 feet at 4 mph so ok forget that.

2. Launch a nuclear powered feather dusting support rover. No that's stupid.

3. Fire a kazillajoule laser at Mars to energize the solar panels. This is actually the least worst idea so far which is depressing.

4. Spend the remaining energy teaching the rover to do the Hammer Dance with it's eight independently swiveling wheels. If you got to go down, go down doing the Hammer Dance that's what I always say which is maybe why nobody sits with me in the cafeteria.

Re:Options (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736323)

. An 89 watt-hour high-speed dash to blow the dust off. By my calculations they should be able to go 6 feet at 4 mph so ok forget that.

2. Launch a nuclear powered feather dusting support rover. No that's stupid.

3. Fire a kazillajoule laser at Mars to energize the solar panels. This is actually the least worst idea so far which is depressing.

4. Spend the remaining energy teaching the rover to do the Hammer Dance with it's eight independently swiveling wheels. If you got to go down, go down doing the Hammer Dance that's what I always say which is maybe why nobody sits with me in the cafeteria.

Idea # 4 would probably generate enough public support to secure an increase in the mars program budget, perhaps enough to launch another rover.

For that matter, why not do idea # 4, then use the money made to pay for # 2. # 4 may even have the same effect as #1. Or you could just get the Pentagon to develop # 3 by claiming it'll fry terrorists, and then have them lend it to NASA for the weekend (hurry up though, Bush is almost out of office and stupid-anti-terrorism-ideas will soon be starved for cash).

Re:Options (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736621)

4. Spend the remaining energy teaching the rover to do the Hammer Dance with it's eight independently swiveling wheels. If you got to go down, go down doing the Hammer Dance that's what I always say which is maybe why nobody sits with me in the cafeteria.

Or we could teach it Daisy Bell [wikipedia.org]

Re:Options (1)

Sterling Christensen (694675) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737115)

4. Spend the remaining energy teaching the rover to do the Hammer Dance with it's eight independently swiveling wheels. If you got to go down, go down doing the Hammer Dance that's what I always say which is maybe why nobody sits with me in the cafeteria.

Or we could teach it Daisy Bell [wikipedia.org]

Or give it a frisbee and have it dance to Put On Your Sunday Clothes.

Re:Options (1)

Guysmiley777 (880063) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737015)

2. Launch a nuclear powered feather dusting support rover. No that's stupid.

Actually, the next planned mission WILL be nuclear powered. NASA Mars Science Laboratory [nasa.gov]

Well that was the logest 90 days I can remeber (3, Interesting)

F34nor (321515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736261)

These things had a 90 day life span! Next time I think we should send them in pairs so they can help each other out in a pinch.

man'kind's eternal spirit in danger? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736289)

seems to happen every other millenium or so.

greed, fear & ego (in any order) are unprecedented evile's primary weapons. those, along with deception & coercion, helps most of us remain (unwittingly?) dependent on its' life0cidal hired goons' agenda. most of yOUR dwindling resources are being squandered on the 'wars', & continuation of the billionerrors stock markup FraUD/pyramid schemes. nobody ever mentions the real long term costs of those debacles in both life & any notion of prosperity for us, or our children. not to mention the abuse of the consciences of those of us who still have one. see you on the other side of it. the lights are coming up all over now. the fairytail is winding down now. let your conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. we now have some choices. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

we note that yahoo deletes some of its' (relevant) stories sooner than others. maybe they're short of disk space, or something?
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081112/ap_on_re_as/as_nepal_buddha_boy;_ylt=A0wNdN1I6RpJfGoBfhWs0NUE
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081106/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/meltdown_who_pays;_ylt=A2KIR3MR9hJJ3YkAGhms0NUE
http://news.google.com/?ncl=1216734813&hl=en&topic=n
http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/09/23/what.matters.thirst/index.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A
(deleted)http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080918/ap_on_re_us/tent_cities;_ylt=A0wNcyS6yNJIZBoBSxKs0NUE
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/29/world/29amnesty.html?hp
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/06/02/nasa.global.warming.ap/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/weather/06/05/severe.weather.ap/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/weather/06/02/honore.preparedness/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/09/28/what.matters.meltdown/index.html#cnnSTCText
http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/books/10/07/atwood.debt/index.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/opinion/01dowd.html?em&ex=1212638400&en=744b7cebc86723e5&ei=5087%0A
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/06/05/senate.iraq/index.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/washington/17contractor.html?hp
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/world/middleeast/03kurdistan.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin
(deleted, still in google cache)http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080708/cheney_climate.html
http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20080805/pl_politico/12308;_ylt=A0wNcxTPdJhILAYAVQms0NUE
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081107/ts_alt_afp/environmentclimatewarmingatlantic_081107145344
(deleted)http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080903/ts_nm/environment_arctic_dc;_ylt=A0wNcwhhcb5It3EBoy2s0NUE
(talk about cowardlly race fixing/bad theater/fiction?) http://money.cnn.com/2008/09/19/news/economy/sec_short_selling/index.htm?cnn=yes
http://us.lrd.yahoo.com/_ylt=ApTbxRfLnscxaGGuCocWlwq7YWsA/SIG=11qicue6l/**http%3A//biz.yahoo.com/ap/081006/meltdown_kashkari.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/04/opinion/04sat1.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
(the teaching of hate as a way of 'life' synonymous with failed dictatorships) http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081004/ap_on_re_us/newspapers_islam_dvd;_ylt=A0wNcwWdfudITHkACAus0NUE
(some yoga & yogurt makes killing/getting killed less stressful) http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081007/ap_on_re_us/warrior_mind;_ylt=A0wNcw9iXutIPkMBwzGs0NUE
(the old bait & switch...your share of the resulting 'product' is a fairytail nightmare?)
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081011/ap_on_bi_ge/where_s_the_money;_ylt=A0wNcwJGwvFIZAQAE6ms0NUE

  it's time to get real now. A LOT of energy/resource has been squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, many of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're still in.

http://www.carnicom.com/ (yikes almighty)
http://weatherwars.info/
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=weather+manipulation&btnG=Search
http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying

'The current rate of extinction is around 10 to 100 times the usual background level, and has been elevated above the background level since the Pleistocene. The current extinction rate is more rapid than in any other extinction event in earth history, and 50% of species could be extinct by the end of this century. While the role of humans is unclear in the longer-term extinction pattern, it is clear that factors such as deforestation, habitat destruction, hunting, the introduction of non-native species, pollution and climate change have reduced biodiversity profoundly.' (wiki)

"I think the bottom line is, what kind of a world do you want to leave for your children," Andrew Smith, a professor in the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences, said in a telephone interview. "How impoverished we would be if we lost 25 percent of the world's mammals," said Smith, one of more than 100 co-authors of the report. "Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live," added Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN director general. "We must now set clear targets for the future to reverse this trend to ensure that our enduring legacy is not to wipe out many of our closest relatives."

"The wealth of the universe is for me. Every thing is explicable and practical for me .... I am defeated all the time; yet to victory I am born." --emerson

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."--chronicles

OMG Mars Global Warming!!! (0, Flamebait)

jsldub (133194) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736383)

We must decrease our carbon footprint on Mars! These devices have started failing from dust storms only recently, since we have been sending robots to Mars.

So it is obviously our robots that are causing the increased storms!

end sarcasm...

Just turn off 3G and bluetooth. (2, Funny)

rwaldin (318317) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736385)

That's what I do when my iPhone battery gets low anyway.

Oblig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736429)

Danger, Will Robinson!

Interview with K'Breel: Next Triumph Awaits (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736489)

The most Illustrious Council of Elders has issued an update following yesterday's Planetary Day of Celebration [slashdot.org] of Victory over the Northern Invader. K'breel, Speaker for the Council, spake thus:

Rejoice! One mechanical nightmare from the evil blue planet has fallen silent. The other robotic terror stirs, but only because it in quivers in fear, for we have darkened the skies with the ashes of its bretheren. We shall starve the invaders of light -- there shall be no mercy for them, as the day shall soon come when our planet itself shall rise to entomb them in a cloak of red dust! On the Tracks of the Founders, this we swear!

When a newly-hired journalism intern implied a correlation between the invaders' movements and seasonal weather patterns, and pointed out that that the current sandstorm had begun to abate, and that the same winds that were promised to bury invaders in dust could also, on occasion, blow accumulated dust off the invaders, K'Breel, in a rare display of compassion, responded by offering him a piece of jerky made from the dried gelsacs of a recently-retired member of the Press Corps.

Next time.... (1)

Patchw0rk F0g (663145) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736545)

Note to self: one cosmic feather-duster...

Anthropomorphizing again (1)

jimhill (7277) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736567)

It's a funny thing...these little machines have done the job they were designed and built to do, done it well, and while I know they're expensive versions of RC cars, there's a part of me that will be sad when they stop working.

Re:Anthropomorphizing again (1)

LMacG (118321) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736947)

Agreed. This is sadder than when Floyd died, but then again, I never actually played Planetfall.

Putting it in perspective. (5, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736575)

The Planetary Society blog has a composite picture [planetary.org] of Spirit from two years ago and today which shows starkly just how much dust has accumulated.

Re:Putting it in perspective. (1)

InsaneMosquito (1067380) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736907)

I wish I had a mod point for you. This picture is very helpful in seeing what two years of dust will do to a rover.

Karma to burn. (1)

NoisySplatter (847631) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737193)

ZOMG! There are footprints in the upper left corner!

Hope? (1)

Aniyn (1268450) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736627)

Maybe, just maybe, if we all wish hard enough the wind will blow some of the dust off the panels and the rovers can go on making the people who developed them look brilliant and foolish all at the same time.

obligatory diealready tag? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25736735)

it's about time, aint it?

Spirit hasn't been moving... (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#25736841)

Spirit has not been moving much recently - I believe that since 2007 it has only gone about 1 or 2 meters. It's not just the power, it's also the crippled wheel.

What the spacecraft needs is a few dust-devils to blow the dust off. The original mission plan assumed that both rovers would suffer power failures after a few months due to dust, and people were pleasantly surprised to have the dust cleared off by the dust-devils. Why this is no longer working is unclear, at least to me - the climate may be changing, or maybe the spacecraft has acquired a static electricity charge.

Clearing off the solar arrays (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25737005)

Can't they just get the gaffer to wipe it off?

Isn't that what they usually do when making movies.

Election results suicides (2, Funny)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 5 years ago | (#25737237)

Spirit got the election results and is committing suicide. Spirit was a big Palin fan.

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