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Spirit Stuck In Soft Soil On Mars

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the it's-covered-in-jam dept.

Mars 160

cheros writes "NASA reports that the Spirit Mars lander is presently stuck in soft soil. The lander's wheels are halfway sunk into the soil and they are planning simulation tests to see if they can get it out again. I hope they can get it out of there because it's picking up enough new energy to operate; however, it only has 5 wheels left to get around on — one of the wheels hasn't been working for years. Fingers crossed."

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Call a tow truck (4, Funny)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#27920807)

Time to call AAA...

Re:Call a tow truck (0)

t-maxx cowboy (449313) | more than 5 years ago | (#27920825)

My thoughts exactly.

Re:Call a tow truck (-1, Offtopic)

rat7307 (218353) | more than 5 years ago | (#27920887)

AAM, surely?

Re:Call a tow truck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27920891)

Umm, wouldn't the MAA be a better choice?

Re:Call a tow truck (4, Funny)

Megane (129182) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921189)

Alien Automobile Association?

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

sckeener (137243) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923763)

Alien Automobile Association?

Since we're the aliens on Mars, I guess that means us.

Re:Call a tow truck (4, Funny)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921217)

They should get Opportunity to come by and fire it's grappling hook to tow it out with its winch.

What?!?! We launched a bunch of space robots to an unknown, rocky terrain without a grappling hook and winch?

They probably didn't include the lasers either. Good thing the people that carved the face are long dead.

Re:Call a tow truck (3, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921623)

Opportunity is on the opposite side of the planet. Given how fast the rovers travel, Opportunity could be on the scene in late 2157.

Re:Call a tow truck (5, Funny)

Sentax (1125511) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921799)

With the lack of spirit, there won't be much opportunity.

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

Armakuni (1091299) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924161)

Ah, but surely this is a great opportunity to show some rover spirit.

Um.

[crickets]

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

Sentax (1125511) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924329)

I see you're the glass half full, and I'm the glass half empty type of person.

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

NeilTheStupidHead (963719) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924861)

No, the glass is simply twice of large as it needs to be.

Re:Call a tow truck (5, Funny)

Onyma (1018104) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921919)

So pretty much a normal road side assistance response time then.

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923103)

They probably didn't include the lasers either.

Duh. Sharks can't live in space.

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923221)

They probably didn't include the lasers either.

They tried, but keeping the sharks fed turned out to be a real problem. Turns out that marsians are one of the few things that sharks won't eat.

Re:Call a tow truck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27923559)

they left space dock without a tractor beam too.

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

jagilbertvt (447707) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921703)

No, they just need to get a New Englander (well, one of the ones that knows how to drive) to get it unstuck. We have lots of experience getting stuck in deep snow.

Disable the traction control and rock it back and forth. :)

Re:Call a tow truck (2, Insightful)

dreamt (14798) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921813)

I don't know that I have ever met a native New Englander that has any idea how to drive (especially in the snow)! At least nowhere near Boston.

Re:Call a tow truck (2, Interesting)

omris (1211900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922539)

Boston is full of college kids, who are probably not New Englanders. And all of the natives around them have now evolved the most aggressively defensive driving style ever imagined to protect themselves. Not a good sample pool.

Look at Maine.

Or someplace that gets a lot of lake effect snow.

Here in Rhode Island, people are terrified of snow. If they predict snow, all of a sudden there is no milk or bread in any store in the state. This always baffled me. Bread, ok. But WHY would you buy milk when there could be severe weather. If you're trapped in your house, your power will likely go out, and now you have a new gallon of spoiled milk. Genius.

On the plus side, I repeatedly impress my neighbors by getting my car out of the snowbanks they make on top of it by shoveling their car out and dumping the snow on mine. I think they're bitter that I don't have to shovel if I don't want to.

Re:Call a tow truck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27922661)

If you're trapped in your house, your power will likely go out, and now you have a new gallon of spoiled milk. Genius.

It's not so much the power going out as it is people thinking they won't drive in the snow and stores/roads might be closed due to the bad weather.

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

omris (1211900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922741)

I always thought that toilet paper was still a better purchase if you might be stuck at home. I would rather be out of dairy.

Re:Call a tow truck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27923017)

Babies can't drink toilet paper.

Re:Call a tow truck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27924261)

What baby drinks the milk you buy at the store? I thought it was breast milk, formula, or toilet paper (obviously).

Re:Call a tow truck (2, Insightful)

weszz (710261) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924209)

Beer and TP.

In Wisconsin when there is a severe snowstorm predicted, those two sell out.

Milk is nice, but the beer and TP will help you weather the storm.

Re:Call a tow truck (3, Funny)

crashumbc (1221174) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923249)

This always baffled me. Bread, ok. But WHY would you buy milk when there could be severe weather. If you're trapped in your house, your power will likely go out, and now you have a new gallon of spoiled milk.

yeah it's not like its COLD outside or anything...

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

omris (1211900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923317)

They do this for EVERY storm. Tropical storm, hurricane, half inch of snow. And it's not like people need ten times the normal quantity of milk. Honestly, the shelves will be literally bare.

Re:Call a tow truck (2, Insightful)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923413)

I think you're not understanding things. People don't want to drive or are worried about being able to buy during/after a storm as someone mentioned earlier.

The problem isn't that people are buying 10x more milk, it's that 10x more people came into the store. Or whatever the multiple is.

When there's a storm more people will go shopping in the day before the storm than after the storm. The market gets products delivered daily and sells it slowly throughout the week but when there's a rush to get emergency provisions, they get more people into the store than a usual day because people plan on not shopping for the next few days.

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

omris (1211900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923629)

No no, I understand. But they do not buy ANYTHING else. They don't run low on anything in the store other than milk and bread. It's a strange Rhode Island phenomenon. Even the news casters have joked about it ("might be mildly bad weather... better go out now to beat the milk and bread rush"). I blame the elderly. We have too many.

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924473)

IT's not just in your area. Milk and bread (as well as eggs, fruits and vegetables) are usually things that sell out fastest in most areas when there is an event that might keep people from going shopping.

Milk and bread are staples that almost everyone reading this has in their home.

They are also perishable so you're not likely to have a reserve in case of emergency like you might have steaks and chicken in the freezer or cans of tuna and tomato paste in the pantry. In fact things like milk, bread and eggs are things people buy more frequently than just their weekly shopping trips because they only buy enough to last a short while. That's why these items seem to do well at gas station convenience stores that people can pick up while their filling upa fter work.

Stores usually only stock a little more than a days supply of these items in most cases unlike something like Frosted Flakes that has a longer shelf life.

People don't buy 10x as much bread and milk before a storm. It's usually around twice as much but the stores don't have twice as much on hand so it looks like people are hoarding bread and milk.

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923369)

Here in Rhode Island, people are terrified of snow. If they predict snow, all of a sudden there is no milk or bread in any store in the state. This always baffled me. Bread, ok. But WHY would you buy milk when there could be severe weather. If you're trapped in your house, your power will likely go out, and now you have a new gallon of spoiled milk. Genius.

You do realise that a cooler or other container set outside in the snow will keep your milk cold, don't you? Genius indeed!

Re:Call a tow truck (0)

firecow77 (1552265) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922805)

I believe Septuple-A (Astro-Afro-Antarctico-Amer-Asian Auto Association) operates out there.

Re:Call a tow truck (1)

TheBig1 (966884) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923095)

Nah, that's Mercury.

Re:Call a tow truck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27923013)

Time to call AAA...

K'Breel frowns menacingly in your direction.

(Came for the Council of Elders, left disappointed...)

Re:Call a tow truck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27923325)

Sounds like a Mars-Rover-Can-Howard-Come-Over-Situation.

Poor NASA (0, Offtopic)

Mendoksou (1480261) | more than 5 years ago | (#27920867)

All they need is something to lift their Spirits... maybe a good comedy movie will do the trick. (sry, the pun HAD to be made)

Re:Poor NASA (0, Troll)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921059)

(sry, the pun HAD to be made)

No, it didn't.

A comedy? (3, Funny)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921411)

maybe a good comedy movie will do the trick.

Like that recent JJ Abrams comedy based on Star Trek characters?

Re:A comedy? (1)

gumpish (682245) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922347)

Oh snap!

Whoa! Time to stop drinking. (2, Informative)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 5 years ago | (#27920911)

I visualized a bottle of rectified spirit in Martian soil.

Re:Whoa! Time to stop drinking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27920935)

I visualized a bottle of rectified spirit in Martian soil.

No sir, no it didn't.

And I need to stop watching horror movies (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922083)

I visualized an tortured spirit in Martian soil. ;)

Should have used show chains... (4, Funny)

tippe (1136385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27920913)

... but I guess it's a little too late now. Oh well, better luck next time.

Re:Should have used show chains... (4, Funny)

ianare (1132971) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922117)

How would they have helped, if they're only for show ?

Re:Should have used show chains... (1)

lazyforker (957705) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923999)

How would they have helped, if they're only for show ?

Dude - cos the whole damn thing is being filmed on a Hollywood backlot. You don't *seriously* believe they actually flew this stuff to Mars?

Still the cheaper option? (2, Interesting)

biocute (936687) | more than 5 years ago | (#27920933)

Does anyone know if managing the twins is still cheaper than sending a new rover?

This occurs to me recently when I had to copy a 600MB file via USB1.0 port to thumb drive, which would have taken about 20 minutes.

I decided to stop the copying, took out my laptop, connected to the network, mapped drive and copied that file in 2 minutes, altogether less than 10 minutes.

Re:Still the cheaper option? (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27920947)

Yes.

same as your 20 minutes waiting is cheaper than buying you a new laptop with Usb 2.0 high speed ports.

Re:Still the cheaper option? (3, Insightful)

yuriyg (926419) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923107)

Don't be so quick to judge. If the GP is a highly paid professional, his time actually might worth more than a modern netbook.
Same story with the rovers. That was a legit question.

Re:Still the cheaper option? (4, Informative)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921047)

The next rover to mars is costing $1.8B to build. Spirit and Opportunity costs around $4M per year to operate. So I think you can fund a lot of years of operations for $1.8B. Hell what does a Delta IV heavy launch cost these days? $50M? $100M?

Re:Still the cheaper option? (2, Interesting)

Aquaseafoam (1271478) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922159)

How does a rover on Mars cost 4 million per year to operate? Personnel for operating the rover couldn't possibly cost that much, and I'm sure the communication infrastructure for it was already in place.

Re:Still the cheaper option? (4, Informative)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922489)

How does a rover on Mars cost 4 million per year to operate?

Long distance charges.

I don't think the $4million number is accurate anyway. It's likely higher. Last year they were going to cut the budget by $4 million and turn off one of the rovers but then changed their minds. IT looks like the budget for the program is actually $20 million according to this article [msn.com] .

Hmm... maybe they didn't change their minds and it's not really stuck.

Re:Still the cheaper option? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27923355)

Communications infrastructure maintenance costs and data warehousing maintenance costs probably don't come cheap for a project like this. I'm sure they don't communicate with these rovers over a walkie talkie.

I don't know how many people are on the team that operate each rover, but lets assume five. I'm sure they're making a smidge more than $8/hr, so chalk up another million in pay and benefits right there.

I read somewhere that your average local walmart has an operating cost between 1 and 1.5 million. These guys are performing science and maintaining a robot on another planet for a little less than 3 times that cost.

Re:Still the cheaper option? (1)

sckeener (137243) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923885)

personnel to operate
personnel to plan where to go
personnel familiar with the hardware
personnel familiar with the software
management
Public relations
Webadmin to post updates
Storage space for data
Servers
electricity
Earth based equipment to communicate with rovers
etc...

Re:Still the cheaper option? (2, Interesting)

Thumper_SVX (239525) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924449)

The personnel may not, but the building they're housed in might. Oh, and electricity costs, overall infrastructure share cost (plumbing, networking, etc).

And from my experience, NASA doesn't build a new comms infrastructure for every launch. They have large consolidated arrays that are actually owned by separate companies... sometimes literally, sometimes they're just "shadow" companies. Communications time is "rented" from these companies at a set rate.

Yes, sometimes it's all just a shell game when dealing within NASA and the USA, but it makes a certain kind of sense. Instead of having a communications infrastructure that's "in the dark" for 12 hours a day and can't talk to the rovers, they instead rent that infrastructure out to people "looking the other way" and rent antenna time in Australia, Japan, Russia etc. Having the arrays manage by another company actually keeps the books easier to keep straight than if you were a project owning your own infrastructure and leasing out antenna time to projects from ESA.

And no, not a rocket scientist... but drank with plenty and a few have talked about this :)

Re:Still the cheaper option? (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923177)

New, old, they all cost less than a thousandth of Goldmand Sach's bailout (GSB).

Re:Still the cheaper option? (1)

RalphTheWonderLlama (927434) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923985)

To be fair, the "next rover to mars" is a LOT MORE than what Spirit and Opportunity are, but it's definitely cheaper to use the resources we have there now. That's why we are servicing Hubble to make it into pretty much a new telescope.

Re:Still the cheaper option? (5, Insightful)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921445)

Does anyone know if managing the twins is still cheaper than sending a new rover?

Sending a new rover for what? There is a new rover on the way, but that does not make Spirit and Opportunity any less valuable. Even getting stuck in soft soil is doing science: the things that the scientists learn from the experience (what soft soil looks like when you approach it, what techniques to use to get out, how to built a rover that can handle it) will be useful.

And don't forget, turning up this soft soil may reveal something important. Many of Spirit's discoveries were because of soil turned over due to her stuck wheel.

Re:Still the cheaper option? (4, Funny)

Zordak (123132) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923159)

And don't forget, turning up this soft soil may reveal something important.

Especially if the "soft soil" turns out to be warm poo.

Re:Still the cheaper option? (1)

jmpareja (951898) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924457)

A new rover with the recently invented instruments I hope. And maybe new experiments. Finding life in Mars, $4million/rover/year. Introducing life on mars, priceless.

Re:Still the cheaper option? (1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922153)

Most entry-level helpdesk people make enough money in 20 minutes to buy a 4GB USB 2.0 flash drive.

However, launching a rocket into space is far from cheap. Sending it to Mars for a successful landing does not decrease the cost in the slightest. And you still need the same rough team size to run the thing.

But they are currently developing a new rover, one built on everything learned from Spirit and Opportunity.

Also, why does Spirit continually get the shaft? Crappy landing spot, bum wheel, can never find good winter shelter, and has been stuck in soil more than once now. Opportunity on the other hand landed near an amazing crater, and has had few mechanical issues, and the terrain has generaly been cooperative.

5 out of 6 wheels?!? (5, Informative)

DavidChristopher (633902) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921001)

SOURCE: Wikipedia
On sol 779, the right front wheel ceased working after having covered 4.2 mi (7 km) on Mars. Engineers began driving the rover backwards, dragging the dead wheel. Ironically, although this has resulted in changes to driving techniques the dragging effect has also had a positive effect in the fact that the wheel dragging has partially cleared soil away on the surface as the rover travels and allows for imaging areas that would normally be covered in soil.

http://marsrovers.nasa.gov/mission/images/rover1_detail_500.jpg [nasa.gov]

NASA got awesome mileage out of this vehicle... considerably more than was initially expected- over 7700 meters! Hopefully they get it unstuck. According the the NASA website, they've gotten it backed up by a few CM over the last few Sols...

Re:5 out of 6 wheels?!? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27921029)

That's more mileage than most American cars :)

Re:5 out of 6 wheels?!? (0, Offtopic)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921093)

NASA got awesome mileage out of this vehicle... considerably more than was initially expected- over 7700 meters!

Bah on your 7.7k meters;I demand nothing less than total disambiguation. We need sufficient variation in measurement to make sure that the sense of each number is clear. I shouldn't have to depend on context to infer what you mean. If you reply to this post and call me "slipshod," I want to know that you are referring to the sloppy, careless reasoning of my post, and not to the looseness of my footwear (for which I propose to the new substitute "slipshoed"). Likewise, trademarks using common words will be disambiguated from the meaning of those words - popular word game Scrabble would need to be renamed, as this spelling is already in use by at least four other meanings, each of which will need its own variation anyhow. We can keep "scrabble" for "to scratch or scrape," but make subtle changes to the rest; "scragble" for "to struggle toward a goal," "scrubble" for "to climb over" (as over rubble!) and the sense "to scribble" should simply be eliminated, as "scribble" is already too close to "scrabble" anyway and might as well be handled as a variant of pronunciation. The game itself might be renamed B-3, after the second letter in the alphabet and its point value in the game (A-1 having been used for the tasty steak sauce and several thousand local plumbing, towing, and other services companies vying for the first spot in the telephone directory, each of which will celebrate its uniqueness with a new, never-before-seen name). Each town with the same name as another will also need to be reborn under a new moniker (surely a cause for revelry in the Midways, Fairviews, and Oak Groves [nwlink.com] [nwlink.com] of the world!). Finally, each of us whose name unfortunately coincides with that of another, shall have to make the tiniest of adjustments, on a first-come, first-served basis; thus, the eldest John Smith on record shall keep his spelling, while the next shall have to be subtly altered (Johnn Smith), and the next altered only the tiniest bit (Jahnn Smith), and so on (Djahnne Pschmiythe). For completeness, the birth and death certificates, tax and census records, and headstones or memorial plaques of some few billions of our ancestors shall likewise need to be "tweaked," possibly according to some fractal algorithm in cases where no living relatives can recommend how John might have preferred it, if only he'd taken the opportunity.

=smudge=

Re:5 out of 6 wheels?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27921107)

The effect of dragging one wheel can be seen in this panoramic image [fotoausflug.de] . Hopefully they can get the rover unstuck, but suppose they can't: Will Spirit be of further use if it's stationary or is there no point in making more observations and measurements unless it can reach new vantage points?

Re:5 out of 6 wheels?!? (1)

jdong (1378773) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921645)

NASA got awesome mileage out of this vehicle... considerably more than was initially expected- over 7700 meters!

DAMN! Watch out Ford, you've got competition!
(Haha joking, joking, don't kill me)

Re:5 out of 6 wheels?!? (1)

tsalmark (1265778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922097)

The things are like zombies, they'll never die.

Life in slow motion... (5, Insightful)

yogibaer (757010) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921041)

In an era where time is the devil and speed is God, it's interesting and heart warming to see that there is actually an engineering job where you can spend weeks looking at the dust under your feet, comtemplate your (modest) goals (another 100 feet, yeah!) and then very, very slowly take you next step. And if a dust storm comes along, just wait for the next breeze to gently brush the dust of your panels and let the sunshine in. Envious. Quite envious.

Re:Life in slow motion... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922637)

That's the wonder of having an open ended mission without any specific goals. Go slow and produce something every once-in-awhile and you stay employed.
 
Seriously, that's why NASA accomplished so many great things in the 60's - they had a goal and a deadline on the manned side, and a bunch of firsts to grab on the unmanned side. Since then, it's been mostly routine and ass covering as (like any bureaucracy) they revert to type.

Craigslist Mars (2, Funny)

BigBlueOx (1201587) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921053)

WANTED: IlludiumQ36 space modulators. New or used. Top prices paid! Contact Shirley or Bobbie @NASA.

Inflatable Tires? (4, Interesting)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921071)

I wonder if they could put inflatable tires on rovers and then manually adjust the pressure for each one to accomodate different soil types, a la WWII DUKW http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DUKW It might help the rover to better adapt to different kinds of soils.

Of course, it would have to be designed for the different pressures of the martian atmosphere.

Re:Inflatable Tires? (1)

PoliticalGamer (1548891) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922909)

That would work well, however, its still just one more thing to break

Re:Inflatable Tires? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923475)

They could - at a fairly steep cost in weight and complexity, two things a spacecraft designer avoids at almost any cost.

Shoulda... (2, Funny)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921079)

Shoulda went with that optional AWD package.

Re:Shoulda... (1)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921437)

Well, it actually is an AWD vehicle [howstuffworks.com] . It's just one of the wheels that doesn't respond anymore...

When does this end? (4, Insightful)

wandazulu (265281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921123)

It's great to see that the rovers have lived on for so long, even if they are showing some wear-n-tear, but given the circumstances, they're clearly well built and I'd buy a used one off ebay any day (uh, shipper pays postage).

I'm curious though, in a totally non-judgmental way, about the cost of the program in general; they expected the rovers to last, what, 90 days? So presumably someone budgeted so many resources here on Earth for people, etc., for that length of time. Since the rovers have been doing such a great job of defying expectations, what kind of effect does that have on the budget for the program; is it sufficiently small enough that it just gets lost in the wash?

Also, since their plans were presumably all built for a 90-day time frame, how do they determine what to do now? Do they take requests from PhD candidates and researchers from around the world?

Re:When does this end? (3, Interesting)

NETHED (258016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921449)

I've been wondering the same thing myself. I bet in the first 100 days, only very pre-planned experiments and moves were made.

Now that we're what, 4 years in, I wonder if grad students are allowed minor joy rides in em. ("You published 2 Science papers, take Oppy for a spin").

You know, now that I'm nearing the end of getting my PhD, it amazes me how science is done. And not in a good way. If you have not read the PhD Comic, you should, its funny because its (sadly) true.

Re:When does this end? (2, Insightful)

Phairdon (1158023) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921705)

I'm assuming that you have gone straight through school to get your PhD and haven't had a job in industry yet. If I'm wrong, then I'm sorry.

One thing that I learned after graduating with my degrees and getting a real job is that real science and engineering is much different than school and research science.

Real science is when you are working on a spacecraft (or some other physical product) and trying to get a real vehicle in the air. School science and lots of research science is plagued by lots of bad things that get mentioned in PhD Comic. I work on trying to get a vehicle in the air and I get really frustrated with some groups out there that we work with that are mainly for research and they don't get the big picture.

Re:When does this end? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27922541)

Real science is when you are working on a spacecraft (or some other physical product) and trying to get a real vehicle in the air.

I always thought that was engineering. Don't get me wrong. I have great respect for both and scientists spend a significant time doing engineering, but building a spacecraft isn't testing a hypothesis. It's not science at all. It's what you do with the spacecraft after it's launched that's science. As someone who works with JPL, I've seen first hand how the engineering project becomes more important that the science experiments it was designed to run.

Re:When does this end? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922257)

now that I'm nearing the end of getting my PhD, it amazes me how science is done. And not in a good way. If you have not read the PhD Comic, you should, its funny because its (sadly) true.

      All arguments of "a medical doctorate is not a "real" doctorate" aside - you should try med school if you want to see how far the definition of ass-kissi- er, science, is stretched.

Re:When does this end? (1)

NETHED (258016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922629)

Funny you should say that, I'm going to continue to get my MD after my PhD.

The main thing I learned from getting a PhD? Cite the right people, and choose the right reviewers. "Peer reviewed" my ASS

Re:When does this end? (3, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921707)

By far, the largest cost of the project was building the rovers and sending them to Mars. Every day of return amortizes the cost of sending the rovers to Mars. The scientists studying the data sent back would have been studying data regardless. This just means they have gotten way more data than they could have hoped for.

Re:When does this end? (2, Insightful)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921747)

My understanding is that NASA designed the rovers to last as long as possible, but only committed to 90 days. Saying its good for a year and getting 6 months would be bad, saying its good for 90 days and making it 6 months is great :)

Lowered expectations.

Re:When does this end? (2, Insightful)

2short (466733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923373)

Well, while it sounds simple in press reports, you don't really design something to last 90 days exactly.

You make some estimates and design something such that you think it has (for example) a 95% chance of lasting 90 days. You don't want to send the thing to Mars without being pretty sure it's going to last for the length of time you've decided will make it worth sending.

But if it has a 95% chance of lasting 90 days, how long does it have a 50% chance of lasting? Probably years. "How long can you say it will last with a high degree of confidence?" is a very different question than "What's your best guess?"

The durability of the rovers, while impressive, is not as completely shocking as it might first seem.

Re:When does this end? (1)

RalphTheWonderLlama (927434) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924103)

Well, it is Mars. It's probably tough to make an estimate. They really could have gotten stuck in soft soil or covered by a dust storm and died at any point.

Re:When does this end? (1)

RalphTheWonderLlama (927434) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924133)

Oh just to add, they have learned a lot about what it takes to drive rovers on Mars to optimize opportunities for discovery and how to be careful about things which is a huge plus for future robotic exploration.

Re:When does this end? (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924587)

"How long to re-fit?" -- Kirk
"Eight weeks. But you don't have eight weeks, so I'll do it for you in two." -- Scotty
"Do you always multiply your repair estimates by a factor of four?" -- Kirk
"How else to maintain my reputation as a miracle worker?" -- Scotty,
"Your reputation is safe with me." -- Kirk,
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

Re:When does this end? (4, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27922713)

I'm curious though, in a totally non-judgmental way, about the cost of the program in general; they expected the rovers to last, what, 90 days? So presumably someone budgeted so many resources here on Earth for people, etc., for that length of time. Since the rovers have been doing such a great job of defying expectations, what kind of effect does that have on the budget for the program; is it sufficiently small enough that it just gets lost in the wash?

Nothing gets lost in the wash in NASA's budget. Not only are there harsh internal reviews, NASA's line items are a popular target for Congressional review. Almost nothing NASA does is low profile, and politically (except for the really big programs) they're neutral - they have no strong constituency in favor, and they're a good place to hide a little pork from public view.
 
That being said, if a program runs long NASA can (and does) reprogram funds from elsewhere to keep it running and then adds it into next years budget request. Programs are paid for annually, not in a lump sum up front.

Re:When does this end? (1)

sckeener (137243) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924027)

actually I was wondering about the sleep schedules of the techs working it. At the beginning they were working on Martian hours and not Earth hours.

A martian day being 24 hours and 40 minutes roughly. The techs were coming in later each day which sounds nice until you get to the odd hours and leaving home when your significant other is just getting home.

Re:When does this end? (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924283)

They probably cleared out some more resources from somebody's spare budget. It doesn't cost that much to keep a few people around to play around with it and take some pictures, it's cheaper than sending another one (probably 10 to 100 times cheaper) and leave that one to rot.

For this little problem, they should just tell it to rock back and forth a few times. I figure it's kinda like off-road driving, you give gas until something gives (and hope it's not your vehicle that gives). If they really want/need to kill it, I would say, go full throttle and go as far as you can go while taking pictures. It would give a lot of new information for just being reckless for a bit. Now they've been there for a few years and have only gone as far as what would take us a short walk

DUI-S (3, Funny)

youn (1516637) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921191)

would the cause of the accident be a driving under influence of spirit ?

power up the... (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921367)

tractor beam

Saw that coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27921401)

Should have had Toyota design it.

Enough of these rovers... (3, Interesting)

Rog-Mahal (1164607) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921511)

Let's get some real people up there! Our unmanned rovers have given us a lot of valuable scientific data, but our space program needs some new life breathed into it. The days of the Shuttle are numbered, and technology such as ion rockets seems very promising.

Re:Enough of these rovers... (1)

2short (466733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923627)

"Let's get some real people up there!"

Who do you think designed, built, launched, and now drives the rovers.

"Our unmanned rovers have given us a lot of valuable scientific data"

Yes, they sure have! Humans who explore using mechanical probes have been fabulously successful. Humans who explore by sending other humans? Not so much. Thousands of times the budget, and they can't keep their toilet running in LEO. Drop them and give me a thousand times as many mechanical probes; can you imagine the improvement in scientific results for the money?

"technology such as ion rockets seems very promising."

For moving mechanical probes to the far reaches of the solar system, absolutely! For moving anything with the mass to contain a human life-support? Um, no. The thrust level is too low by a factor of roughly... something ending in "illion".

Re:Enough of these rovers... (1)

Paul server guy (1128251) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924963)

I saw a study last year (Dont ask me to cite it, it was last year. Check "New Scientist" or something like it.) that stated that a 3 person human crew could have covered all the distance, and done better science than either of the rovers in two weeks... Sure, at an order of magnitude more expense, but still less than the bank bribes - um - I mean bailouts...

Gernsbeck Continuum (2, Interesting)

afabbro (33948) | more than 5 years ago | (#27921583)

Reading that headline, "Spirit Stuck In Soft Soil On Mars," I thought I'd been transported back to a 1930s Northwest Smith story about a haunted being trapped in the Red Planet. Alas...no.

FLOOR MATS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27922533)

Could always drive over its own "hands" ...

The Big Bang Theory (4, Funny)

thespacemark (1553027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27923123)

Okay, it is pretty obvious that someone at NASA is a fan of the show, and figured if it worked for Wolowitz... Hey, surely 'I' won't be so stupid as to get the rover stuck. Maybe they will discover life on Mars while stuck in the dirt.

Rover Driver's Blog (3, Interesting)

TrekkieTechie (1265532) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924469)

At night, there's a small red light in the sky. On that light lives four hundred pounds of thinking metal sent from Earth. I tell that metal what to do, and it does it.

Scott Maxwell, one of the rover's drivers, has a blog [blogspot.com] detailing the events of the mission exactly five years behind schedule.

Song dedicated to Spirit and Opportunity (1)

DanCentury (110562) | more than 5 years ago | (#27924887)

I wrote a song about Spirit and Opportunity on my album The Secret Lives of Probes, Satellites and Rovers (2008). The song is called Good Life.

Free (as in beer) to download and share of course http://milkshakedaddy.rpmchallenge.com

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