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Spirit Rover Begins Making Night Sky Observations

CmdrTaco posted about 5 years ago | from the rover-that-keeps-on-giving dept.

Mars 157

Nancy Atkinson writes "Even though the Spirit rover is stuck in loose soil on Mars, she has an overabundance of electrical power due to a wind event that cleaned off her solar panels. While MER scientists and engineers are having the rover take pictures of her surroundings in an effort to figure a way to get her dislodged, there also is enough power (since the rover isn't moving anywhere) to do something extra: keep the rover 'awake' at night and run her heaters so she can take images of the night sky on Mars. 'Certainly, a month or more ago, no one was considering astronomy with the rovers,' said Mark Lemmon, planetary scientist at Texas A&M University and member of the rover team. 'We thought that was done. With the dust cleanings, though, everyone thinks it is better to use the new found energy on night time science than to just burn it with heaters.'"

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Observe This (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513301)

First Post, Bitches!!

I GET IT! (-1, Offtopic)

WiglyWorm (1139035) | about 5 years ago | (#28513309)

burn it with heaters!!!!!!

I wonder if they are going to look at (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513317)


why aren't any of the rover pics ever worth a damn (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513375)

the sky image - those aren't stars, just "hot pixels"... and the pics are never, ever true colors. How come we can't get true color pics for our hundred million dollars?

Then, when they DO image something interesting, like this Martin crinoid [] , they won't talk about it!

Re:why aren't any of the rover pics ever worth a d (5, Insightful)

grub (11606) | about 5 years ago | (#28513399)

Then, when they DO image something interesting, like this Martin crinoid, they won't talk about it!

If there really was to be a cover-up, wouldn't it be easier to just not release the smoking gun pictures rather than release and deny?


Re:why aren't any of the rover pics ever worth a d (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513485)

well that image DOES look like a fossilized animal to me.

Re:why aren't any of the rover pics ever worth a d (4, Informative)

grub (11606) | about 5 years ago | (#28513521)

Sure, it does to me too, but that doesn't make it one. Take the famous Mars face [] photos. It looks like a face, under the right conditions of lighting and shading, but is otherwise an unremarkable piece of Martian real estate.

Re:why aren't any of the rover pics ever worth a d (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | about 5 years ago | (#28513973)

*right conditions of lighting, shading and resolution.

Re:why aren't any of the rover pics ever worth a d (2)

Pictish Prince (988570) | about 5 years ago | (#28513999)

Then, when they DO image something interesting, like this Martin crinoid, they won't talk about it! If there really was to be a cover-up, wouldn't it be easier to just not release the smoking gun pictures rather than release and deny? .

The same reason the original post appeared on /. but was marked "Troll": Information is hard to control but relatively easy to discredit.

You posted from "Angstrom Medal" Winner... (4, Insightful)

WED Fan (911325) | about 5 years ago | (#28513683)

Good, F%&king god, man. Did you seriously post a link from Richard C. "Art Bell's Best Buddy" Hoagland, "winner" (read: purchaser) of the Angstrom Medal, science "advisor" to Walter Cronkite during the Apollo missions, Mister "Face On Mars", glass tunnels on Mars? Did you seriously post that tripe on this site?

Do you believe:

  • Aliens have Elvis?
  • Alien craft are in storage in "Area "Boogidy Boogidy" 51"?
  • Aliens built the pyramids?
  • Atlantis is near Bermuda/Bahamas/Catalina?
  • The world will end on December 21, 2012?

You do know that this is /. and not the "News of the World" site, right?

Re:You posted from "Angstrom Medal" Winner... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513727)

Just so we have a record of it, you're saying that's NOT a fossilized crinoid on Mars, right?

virgins and non virgins (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28515397)

Just a rough analogy, but try to explain to a non virgin what it means to be sexually aware with another, what it really means. It's quite hard.

Here's mine on a note related to your dismissive reply. I've seen-many years ago now, with additional witnesses, a group of friends-a UFO, and up pretty close. I cannot tell you exactly what it was or where it came from other than an intelligently controlled craft (I cannot say if it was "manned" or not, just it maneuvered intelligently) of such a propulsion system as to be centuries perhaps or more beyond what we have today. It was that slick. It really happened. I became a non virgin when it comes to that subject. It had incredible flight characteristics, ability to go slow and hover, dead stop, then go off at such a speed as it was hard to even follow it closely, much faster than missiles I have seen or videos of missiles. This was witnessed at approximately 60 yards or so at the closest approach, perhaps 40 feet above the ground. No noise, no exhaust, no rotors and certainly not a balloon or anything like that.

Your entire world changes when you become a non virgin, with sex..or with this other subject. It becomes incredibly difficult to try and explain to the still virgins exactly what this experience does, and the implications, or how it makes you feel or how it alters your world viewpoint, even in how you take "virgins" opinions on a subject that they haven't experienced yet, and especially official government pronouncements*. It well and truly does make you "question authority" and the viewpoints of those who have no first hand experience.

It is somewhat saddening to see this subject always reduced to illogical absurdity on this board. Go outside at night and look up. Billions of stars/galaxies. Now really contemplate the odds of the earth being the ONLY inhabited planet, or perhaps the most advanced with any sort of life, the most evolved, with the highest tech.

The odds for that being true are absurdly small.

All I can say is, don't be so knee jerk dismissive, because frankly, and I can say this with 100% certainty now that I am a non virgin, you are wrong. There IS something out there, and my guess is, there are a variety of somethings out there. That they are occasionally seen here is a certainty, too many anecdotals to ignore now, and their stealth tech has to be orders of magnitude better than what we have now, so that is why it is fleeting and still sort of rare, they only appear when they (a very loose "they" as no adequate word exists) need to or feel like it. And even if I had managed to get a snapshot (this was the time well before digital cameras existed), the pic itself would have come out pretty bad, because the object was glowing and at night, it would have just looked like a weird blob of light, but to our still sharp young persons eyeballs, it was the most amazing thing to see. Simply..just...a once in a lifetime experience. It is something you never, ever forget, just like losing virginity/gaining sexual awareness, right up there.

*because this was so profound to me, I have made it a point over the years to try and find out more about the subject, and in some cases, from governmental sources "off the record". Not a huge effort, just whenever the opportunity arose. So far, the true existence of some sort of ET visitation has been confirmed to me by a well regarded civilian scientist at JPL, an air force officer who worked before retirement in the highest levels of telemetry and near earth sensing, some other pilots both in private aviation and in commercial aviation (they are scared witless of losing license so most never will admit to seeing rather odd craft, and just won't even report it officially), two different professional air traffic controllers, and some other DOD type folks. One of the more unusual cases I was told about involved one of those hospital ships they used off the coast of viet nam back during the war. A friend had gotten wounded, an army NCO, and was undergoing treatment there. A disk shaped craft, his description was classic "saucer", hovered around and near the ship for quite some time, hundreds of people viewed it, all were threatened with a lot of dire consequences if they ever talked about it. They were ordered that "it never happened".

We aren't alone, man. It is actually fairly neat to actually KNOW this. I would love to have another experience like that, perhaps get to find out exactly who those..folks.. are and how their stuff works. It has given me hope to this day that perhaps humanity won't completely screw up and commit planetary mass suicide or something by global war or bad pollution, or biological (some GM creation gone bad) accident etc, perhaps we might get overt and public help eventually from those sources. I don't know, that is my hope though. I also know that eventually we'll have replacements for those clunky chemical reaction rockets, because the tech *exists*. Which means eventually we monkeys can get off this rock and go have some serious fun.

Re:why aren't any of the rover pics ever worth a d (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513927)

They don't take true color pictures because true color pictures are less useful to them. They can occasionally put something together that looks impressive to help spur public interest, but the instruments they put on sattelites and rovers are first and foremost there to get the information that scientists need and there's a lot more information available by looking outside the visible spectrum.

Re:why aren't any of the rover pics ever worth a d (3, Informative)

StarManta.Mini (860897) | about 5 years ago | (#28514277)

If you're wondering why they don't make "true color" images, it's because "true" colors aren't scientifically useful. They choose the color filters very carefully to give them the most useful images for seeing certain things, not so that you can get "true color" pictures.

But then I read the second part of your comment and realized nothing I say will be understood.

Re:why aren't any of the rover pics ever worth a d (2, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 years ago | (#28514603)

and the pics are never, ever true colors. How come we can't get true color pics for our hundred million dollars?

They have taken a few, especially earlier in the mission. But bandwidth to/from that far is expensive, so they do tend to limit the spectrum observed to "scientifically interesting" areas of the light spectrum. For one, the red and green detectors of the human eye are too close together wavelength-wise for Mars use. It may have been useful for finding ripe fruit in trees, but not for exploring Mars.

Actually, they can approximate a human-eye view based on comparisons with earlier images, but I find the "scientifically enhanced" ones more interesting anyhow. You can see differences in rock types and dust types much more clearly.

I do wish they put all the color panoramas together in one spot on the NASA web-site, with both the "real" approximation and the enhanced. (Perhaps they do, but I haven't found it yet.)

Re:why aren't any of the rover pics ever worth a d (3, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 years ago | (#28515009)

I forgot to mention that there is a book called "Postcards from Mars" that has some wonderful color images (true, approximate, and false color) from the rovers. It is a bit dated in that it doesn't include some of the newer places visited, but still a very nice coffee-table book. []

Sadly, the cameras are so dusty now that they cannot take very good panoramas anymore. However, I was wondering if they couldn't clean up the images because the dust fuzz should mostly be the same for any given sun angle. In other words, subtract out the known noise pattern. It would probably have to be done by an amateur because NASA doesn't have a lot of spare funds for that kind of activity. Panoramas involve dozens if not hundreds of smaller images. An amateur cleaned up some of the earlier Soviet Venus lander images, and did a bang-up job. He even made some discoveries of unknown detail partially hidden by haze.

Girl rover (3, Funny)

oneirophrenos (1500619) | about 5 years ago | (#28513393)

Who decided she was female?

Re:Girl rover (4, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | about 5 years ago | (#28513415)

It is something that you could ride; wouldn't it be better to ride a female? /Going for a strictly funny mod with this comment. //Real reason is probably the same way that ships are referred to using feminine pronouns.

Re:Girl rover (1, Funny)

DamonHD (794830) | about 5 years ago | (#28513439)

That sounds like a narrowly sexualised western heterosexual male point of view: there may be others...



Re:Girl rover (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513585)

There are other points of view, and they're wrong.

Re:Girl rover (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 years ago | (#28513681)

Try: "The heteronormative, phallocentric discourse of the hegemonic western technocratic class."

For extra credit, be sure to emphasize that said class's "dehumanizing ideology of technologically mediated science-as-dominance oppresses the many equally valid Traditional Ways of Knowing embraced by native martian culture".

Re:Girl rover (1)

DamonHD (794830) | about 5 years ago | (#28514093)

Hmm, that one brings its own agenda which I don't want to endorse either, necessarily! B^>



PS. I wish to state that I have embraced no native Martians, yet.

Re:Girl rover (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513497)

Take your slashies and go back to Fark....

Re:Girl rover (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28515183)

It's NASA's way of complying with affirmative action.

Next I suspect space shuttles will be named after NBA basketball stars to level that playing field as well.

Re:Girl rover (2, Funny)

tverbeek (457094) | about 5 years ago | (#28513495)

Who decided she was female?

She did, of course. Kind of like Chas Bono has decided he's not. Welcome to the 21st century. :)

Nautical tradition (1)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | about 5 years ago | (#28513555)

Ships are female. Spirit is (kind of) a spaceship. There you go.

Re:Nautical tradition (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513665)

It's not just nautical tradition. In English, anything of "common" gender (i.e. persons unknown or groups of mixed gender) get masculine pronouns, while anything ordinarily neuter but "personified" gets feminine pronouns. There were some archaic examples of personification from neuter to the masculine gender, of which see Fowler's for details, but these mainly follow Latin gender categories; modern usage of the gender of personification favors the feminine, as far as I know, exclusively.

Re:Nautical tradition (1)

Pictish Prince (988570) | about 5 years ago | (#28514067)

It's a ROVER - who ever heard of a girl ROVER?

Re:Girl rover (4, Funny)

RenderSeven (938535) | about 5 years ago | (#28513763)

If it was a guy, clearly it wouldnt have gotten stuck. Would've had bigger mud tires and a hemi ...

Re:Girl rover (3, Funny)

saider (177166) | about 5 years ago | (#28514081)

And naked lady mud flaps.

Re:Girl rover (1)

x2A (858210) | about 5 years ago | (#28514541)

...rather than just lady flaps...

Re:Girl rover (2, Funny)

nametaken (610866) | about 5 years ago | (#28515229)

Nor would it wait for NASA to send directions. Look at what that got her.

Re:Girl rover (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513987)

the Spirit rover is stuck in loose soil on Mars, she...

Re:Girl rover (4, Funny)

BrightSpark (1578977) | about 5 years ago | (#28514667)

Because girls aren't easily turned on by nerdy scientists!

Wind Event? (3, Insightful)

Noodlenose (537591) | about 5 years ago | (#28513425)

Is that what we mere mortals call a 'storm'?

Re:Wind Event? (2, Funny)

dintech (998802) | about 5 years ago | (#28513515)

Less well scientifically endowed individuals might think that storm = rain, thunder and lightening as well as wind.

Re:Wind Event? (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | about 5 years ago | (#28513703)

Then what about just "wind"?

Re:Wind Event? (3, Funny)

weirdcrashingnoises (1151951) | about 5 years ago | (#28514443)

Less well scientifically endowed individuals might think that wind = farting.

Re:Wind Event? (2, Funny)

ScentCone (795499) | about 5 years ago | (#28513917)

Is that what we mere mortals call a 'storm'?

What, are you trying to make some sort of humor event?

Re:Wind Event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513935)

I think "storm", or some other word/phrase would be more appropriate. "Wind event" is just too generic at term and doesn't really provide a useful description of a weather occurrence. Storm is pretty generic too, but a least we have an general notion of the kind of weather patterns associated with the term.

A "wind event" OTOH, could easily refer to the noxious gas that was just this minute expelled from my sphincter.

Re:Wind Event? (3, Funny)

guruevi (827432) | about 5 years ago | (#28513995)

Next time I'm under the covers with my wife and she asks where that smells come from, I can now say: a wind event.

Re:Wind Event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28514069)

this is a gov't agency issuing press releases, what do you expect?

Re:Wind Event? (4, Insightful)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 5 years ago | (#28514447)

Storm implies rain, as other commenters have mentioned. However, this is more than just wind, it is is a phenomenon typical of Mars but rare on Earth: very small tornadoes. The Mars folks call these "dustdevils" as the appear and move similar to Taz. So "wind" is inappropriate, "storm" implies water, and "dustdevil" sounds weird to the layman. "Wind event" suffers none of the drawbacks, and the less-inquiring layman will not ask any more questions.

Re:Wind Event? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28514947)

You grew up somewhere nice didn't you? We call them Dust Devils here on earth too. And on the large flat deserts where I group up they are about as uncommon as clouds in Seattle.

However, this does not detract from the point that night time observations would be cool. Seeing 3 or 4 dust devils 5-10 feet tall, all swirling Taz-like across the Martian landscape would be something to behold.

Re:Wind Event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28515285)

Since the coining of the term predates [] Looney Tunes, I suspect it has little to do with the way Taz moves.

Re:Wind Event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28515255)

Is that what we mere mortals call a 'storm'?

I don't know; but among us mortars we call it a mere 'blitz' ...

Observe what? (5, Interesting)

ATestR (1060586) | about 5 years ago | (#28513467)

At first glance, one might think that observation of the Martian night sky would return insignificant scientific data. After all, how powerful of a telescope does Spirit mount? Certainly not even in Hubble's league. But they aren't looking to collect data about distant galaxies & stars.

The real value is information about the Martian atmosphere. By observing the "twinkle" of distant stars, the observations should return some useful information regarding night time atmospheric conditions. Maybe not as much as a dedicated purpose designed atmospheric station, but certainly more than we have now.

Re:Observe what? (5, Insightful)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | about 5 years ago | (#28513777)

From TFA:

described Spirit's astronomy as "stone-knives and bear-skins backyard astronomyâ"but from Mars!"

They may not get much useful information but you have to admit, doing Astronomy from a coffee-table sized robot while it sits stuck in sand on another planet 36 Million miles away IS pretty cool.

Re:Observe what? (3, Interesting)

BrightSpark (1578977) | about 5 years ago | (#28515061)

Spot on. Tuly remarkable. Just as impressive is tracking Pioneer 10; a 2.7m wide hunk of shiny metal over 100 AU from the sun. I want to be at the finish line at Aldebaran in 2 million years. At least the champers will be cold :-) Of course, Voyager 1 is now all the go, because it is moving much faster than Pioneer 10, it is now the futherest man-made object at 108 AU. See here; [] I wonder if people will remember Pioneer 10?

nothing wrong with anthropomorphism (2, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 5 years ago | (#28513537)

the human mind has many types of intelligence: spatial, social, emotional, etc.

one of our most powerful is, in fact, our social intelligence. a rodent needs a good sense of smell to escape predators and find food. living in a social group, the biggest threat and reward for you comes not from the bushes: berries or fangs, but from your fellow humans: jealous potential murderer or coy potential mate

therefore, you have this powerful cognition machine sitting in your head hewn from millenia of evolution in human groups. well, use it. there is nothing wrong with bringing your powerful social intelligence machinery to bear on nonsocial problems. think of it as using otherwise wasted cpu cycles on protein folding or finding mersenne primes: you "use" your social intelligence by imagining a math problem as a social setting (cue that famous scene from the russel crowe flick "a beautiful mind"), or reimagining your relationship as captain of a cruise ship and all its engineering problems as instead a relationship with a woman and all of the attendant problems that comes with that

it is in fact, not some sort of weird mental trick i am referring to, it is in fact almost a subconcious and completely natural effort for most of us, this repurposing of social intelligence, since our social intelligence is probably our most potent form of intelligence. you look at clouds and bark on trees and stars in the sky and see faces and bodies, its effortless. this is because your mind is powerfully prejudiced and primed to process its world in terms of social cues and meanings first. yes, spatial intelligence is important for many things, like throwing a spear or building a hut. but none of that matters if you didn't see the backstabber in your hunting party or missed the social cues that the big man's daughter was interested in you. social intelligence is our most important form of intelligence: i am sure plenty of people can outrank barack obama on a traditional iq test. but iq tests test only certain forms of intelligence. barack obama's ability to recognize, manipulate, and use social networks to gain power (or any politician's such ability, its called charisma) is in fact a much more important form of iq than anything a traditional iq test reveals

there is nothing wrong with anthropomorphism. it is entirely natural, and in fact, useful. in fact, if you see something wrong with anthropomorphism, all you are doing is denying a powerful aspect of your own intellect to come to bear on problems of interest to you. or perhaps you are in fact impoverished in your social intelligence abilities, and your anathema to anthropomorphism is just a symptom of your own poverty, not a valid comment on other people's lines of thinking

so when the engineers and technicians talk about and react to events with the mars rovers in terms of a social relationship with another person, specifically, a woman ("she"), all they are doing is putting themselves in a frame of mind to maximize their intellectual abilities to process the issues that come up

Re:nothing wrong with anthropomorphism (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513581)

Or perhaps they are just using the centuries-old nautical convention for giving craft of various kinds the female gender, which likely reached NASA from the navy.

Don't overthink it. Boats have been 'she' for many centuries. It's only meant to engender respect and care.

how is it possible (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 5 years ago | (#28513715)

you can frame words that basically supports and rephrases exactly what i am saying as somehow refuting what i am saying?


Re:how is it possible (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 years ago | (#28514021)

I doubt he read what you wrote. I didn't.

Re:how is it possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28514041)

Well, it didn't take him a long, presumptuous and condescending rambling to say the same you tried to express. I'd much rather keep his version.

Re:nothing wrong with anthropomorphism (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 years ago | (#28513825)

Unfortunately, while social intelligence is powerful(since we've been burning brainpower on social problems longer than we've been human), it is also an excellent way to bring nearly invisible and highly emotionally misleading contrafactual assumptions into your thinking.

Using social intelligence on a problem means implicitly assuming that the object(s) you are interacting with possess social qualities. Even if you tell yourself you aren't going to do that, actually not doing so means swimming against the current of millions of years of evolutionary optimization. When you are dealing with objects that very much don't possess social qualities(like computers, or bridges, or mars-exploring robots, or corporations, or sociopaths) using social intelligence is a powerful way to get the wrong answer. Even in situations where the objects in question do possess social qualities(dogs and other social animals, for instance) anthropomorphic thinking can lead you badly astray because these objects don't possess the same social qualities, or methods of signaling, than you do(just try giving a non-human primate a friendly grin, or treating your dog like a little person).

(Plus, robots hate being anthropomorphized)

Re:nothing wrong with anthropomorphism (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about 5 years ago | (#28514771)

Unfortunately, while social intelligence is powerful(since we've been burning brainpower on social problems longer than we've been human), it is also an excellent way to bring nearly invisible and highly emotionally misleading contrafactual assumptions into your thinking.

Ah, but part of the problem space of NASA engineers is one of communication and public relations, and so if anthropomorphizing (dammit that's hard to type) the machine helps both in terms of team motivation and PR, then why not?

(Plus, robots hate being anthropomorphized)

Only the straight ones. Gay robots enjoy it.

Amazing Engineering (5, Insightful)

deemen (1316945) | about 5 years ago | (#28513541)

That this rover landed in 2004 with a planned mission of 90 Martian days and we're now in 2009 still amazes me. To keep these rovers functioning for that long is an engineering triumph. Even with equipment failures, dust storms, broken wheels etc. the engineers at NASA manage to make the best of these rovers and learn more about Mars. If we're lucky, the rovers will still be working when we land there, one day. It's nice to see such human ingenuity.

Re:Amazing Engineering (3, Funny)

sigmoid_balance (777560) | about 5 years ago | (#28513735)

I wonder how long are the martians going to keep feeding us this data. They should be tired of this joke by now.

Re:Amazing Engineering (3, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 5 years ago | (#28513945)

The problem is, people will expect this again and again, for the same or less money - when the next 90 day rover is planned, whats its budget going to be set at? The $500m that Spirit and Opportunity cost, or a fraction of that considering how 'overbuilt for the job' these two turned out to be?

The overperforming of this mission could turn out to be a wolf in sheeps clothing. Be wary.

Re:Amazing Engineering (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | about 5 years ago | (#28514045)

And most of that overperforming is due to sheer dumb luck that the Mars winds (a) found the rovers and (b) are strong enough to blow dust off of the panels.

Re:Amazing Engineering (2)

msbmsb (871828) | about 5 years ago | (#28514371)

Exactly, it's really a combination of engineering and fortune. If not for the fortunate wind storms these rovers would have frozen long ago, and if not for the good engineering, even with clean solar panels, the rovers would have broken/quit before now.

Re:Amazing Engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28514225)

I believe a erronous assumption is what the cause of their longevity. They assumed the solar panels would be covered with dust and not generate enough power after about 90 days. however, martian window washers have been coming around every so often and cleaning them. The bill is gonna suck however.

Re:Amazing Engineering (2, Insightful)

Matje (183300) | about 5 years ago | (#28514777)

How is this a bad thing? If you can spend less to achieve your objective, why wouldn't you?

Re:Amazing Engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513977)

Maybe they just need to do a better job estimating the life of the rover...

"No one exceeds their potential. If they did, it would mean we did not accurately gauge their potential in the first place." - from Gattaca

Re:Amazing Engineering (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 5 years ago | (#28514795)

I'm wagering that designing a rover that you are certain is capable of running around Mars for 90 days would necessarily entail a degree of engineering that makes it at least theoretically capable of running around Mars for years. Everything that broke and they worked their way out of in the last few years could have happened on day 10. Thus redundancy, back-doors, and clever, robust engineering were the words, even for a short mission.

The 90 day expected life was due to the expectation that the solar panels would get covered in dust, and that the Martian wind would be too slight to blow them off (and various panel cleaning devices were considered and rejected for reasoning as solid as the rest of the rover design). When that assumption was proven false, and the panels were kept clean enough to continue powering the rover, well, then the rover's "expected" life span goes way, way up.

It's not like they said "Oh the mission will only be 90 days, we can design this axle so that it would snap on day 91" or "Hey, the controller code will fail with an out of memory exception on day 100, but we won't fix it or put in a back door to get new code in the rover because who cares if it dies on day 100?"

So, yeah, yay for human ingenuity for sure, but that ingenuity was in there from the start and comparing the result to the 90 day expected life is a little misleading.

Amazing what those little rovers can do (4, Insightful)

bignetbuy (1105123) | about 5 years ago | (#28513583)

Such an amazing project, those little rovers are. With an planned life span of 90 days, they have now been running since...oh...2003? Wonderful work, NASA. Please keep the pictures and the science flowing. Can you imagine how long that data takes to get from Earth to Mars?

Or what about the communication path from the rovers to NASA? They use the Mars Odyssey or Mars Global Surveyor. Check this out. The rovers have a 250kbps link to those satellites. Unreal. Even with the satellite use, the data still takes TEN minutes to get to Earth.

This stuff is awesome. Just awesome.

Re:Amazing what those little rovers can do (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28513625)

They built them to nearly guarantee a 90 day lifespan, not for a 90 day lifespan. They were planning on them lasting longer. Probably not this long though.

Re:Amazing what those little rovers can do (2, Interesting)

bignetbuy (1105123) | about 5 years ago | (#28513725)

Good point. A 90 day guarantee...that has lasted 6+ years. Wish I could get the same for my next laptop.

Re:Amazing what those little rovers can do (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28514009)

My laptop is doing pretty well 1.5 years after the warranty (guarantee) ran out. If I had the money, I'd probably be looking at replacing it (I don't feel like having to deal with something after it breaks). I will certainly be looking at replacing it this time next year.

Of course, with the rovers, they had to build that guarantee into the equipment, they (apparently) did not have the option of simply shipping a replacement.

Re:ten minutes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513711)

So no playing <insert fps game of choice here/>

Re:Amazing what those little rovers can do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513851)

For future reference, the time it takes to communicate with the rovers is dependent on the speed of light, not the fact that there's a satellite bouncing the signal to us.

Phobos & Deimos (5, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | about 5 years ago | (#28513621)

Please, please, please...make a photo of those two moons on night/twilight sky, with barely visible ground/horizon

Ultimate romantic picture for all geeks throughout the world ;>

Re:Phobos & Deimos (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513769)

I don't think it's going to look like you think it's going to look.

Here a series of pictures [] taken by Spirit in 2005.

Re:Phobos & Deimos (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 5 years ago | (#28513967)

Well, of course; it depends on capacity of image sensors (I suspect this one's fine, especially at twilight/when making composite picture) and being able to do tricks with perspective (essentially: powerful zoom; and tbh I have some doubts with this requirement)

Re:Phobos & Deimos (5, Interesting)

brock bitumen (703998) | about 5 years ago | (#28513963)

that *would* be cool. don't think the Martian sky has a sight like that tho

Put this in perspective, our moon [] , which is a fairly large night-sky (or daytime) feature, is about 1800km mean radius, (which is about a quarter the size of Earth, mind you, and we posses the largest natural satellite, relative to the planet, in the solar system), and, by the way it's about 385,000 km from earth on average, which is not very close, but it still appears quite large.

However, Phobos [] , and Deimos [] , the two small moons possessed by Mars, are a paltry 11km and 6km in mean radius, respectively. The smaller moon, Deimos, is also farther away, and would appear no more than a small dot in the sky (day or night as it would happen to be). Phobos, by virtue of it's very close orbital distance, would have a shot at actually being recognized by a lay-Martian to be something special in the sky, but it would still appear quite small when compared to the grandeur of Luna.

The photos from these pages depicting a solar transit ("eclipse") from the the surface of Mars, help provide a good metric for comprehending these relative sizes. Notice that neither moon is large enough to actually create an eclipse. Of course, on the surface of Mars, the Sun is slightly smaller than on the surface of Earth, but not by very much. Phobos' transit [] , Deimos' transit []

Finally, both of these on first glance appear to be nothing more than lumps of rock drifting through space, hardly anything to cherish on a romantic skyline like we do the way our perfectly curved Luna hangs. But maybe I'm just being ethnocentric....

Re:Phobos & Deimos (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 5 years ago | (#28514075)

What you write is not a problem at all in principle - simply do a trick with perspective by using powerful zoom (the landscape will look largery the same, but the image of moons will be significantly enlarged - actually, that's also how you make "stunning" images of Luna)

Of course it depends on the presence of adequate optics on the rovers; I don't know if they posses it.

Re:Phobos & Deimos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28513985)

I wasn't actually sure if Mars's moons were visible with the naked eye, so I played with some quick numbers off of wikipedia... Our moon takes up 0.5 degrees in the sky. Phobos (the larger/closer of Mars's) only takes up 0.2 degrees. So, maybe they could grab the shot, if their cameras are high enough resolution.

Re:Phobos & Deimos (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 5 years ago | (#28514489)

The moons are tiny, and not round. They do not form symetrical cresents like ours does, and they show absolutely no surface detail other than their unusual shape from the Martian surface. Oh, and they are tiny.

Re:Phobos & Deimos (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 5 years ago | (#28514793)

You could read my others posts in this sub-thread before replying...

Sell the images to raise funding money. (2, Interesting)

InfinityWpi (175421) | about 5 years ago | (#28513663)

Seriously, who here wouldn't donate a few bucks to NASA in exchange for a "Night sky as seen from Mars Rover" desktop image?

Re:Sell the images to raise funding money. (4, Informative)

bignetbuy (1105123) | about 5 years ago | (#28513749)

*raises hand*
Between the Martian pics, Hubble, and APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day), we have enough pictures to last a lifetime...or at least until Microsoft starts charges us to change wallpaper. Hohoho.

Re:Sell the images to raise funding money. (1)

meringuoid (568297) | about 5 years ago | (#28514133)

The night sky is difficult from a photography point of view; stars are terribly faint objects and are hard to image, especially since if you take a long exposure you get streaks instead of points. The Martian moons are tiny and unimpressive compared to Earth's moon, which is larger than most dwarf planets.

However, this Martian sunset [] makes a very nice wallpaper.

Re:Sell the images to raise funding money. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28514811)

Not I! I'd just download it from TPB...

Re:Sell the images to raise funding money. (1)

confused one (671304) | about 5 years ago | (#28514843)

I've already got the "Sunrise as seen from the Mars Rover" desktop image. All you need to do is roam through the public archives of the images, then when you find one you like download it at full resolution and convert it to a jpg. For what it's worth, you've already paid for them (taxes).

Would be better to look for meteors (4, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 5 years ago | (#28513721)

The pix of stars aren't very good.

As the article says, they trail after a few seconds, since they can't track. So they can't take deeper images of fainter objects. Without the ability to track, they might as well point the camera straight up (or whereever) and check for meteors. Apart from getting information about how many strike the martian atmosphere, they could correlate counts with meteor showers on earth, to see how the same showers impact (or not) two planets at the same time - a unique opportunity.

Also, a lot of metoers on earth at least, are fairly bright. So they might get quite a good hit-rate with their cam. Although I don't know what effect the thinner atmosphere would have. It would be interesting to see if the thinner atmosphere made meteors burn brighter (as they'd be slowed down by "air", less) or less bright, due to the lack of gases.

Re:Would be better to look for meteors (1)

rainmaestro (996549) | about 5 years ago | (#28513957)

I would presume they would be less bright. They burn brightly because of all the air in our atmosphere (glowing from the heat caused by all that friction). A thinner atmosphere would result in less heat and therefore a dimmer meteor. Still, they would probably be bright enough to be recorded by the camera, since there is no ambient light on mars to interfere with sighting them.

Re:Would be better to look for meteors (1)

Andor666 (659649) | about 5 years ago | (#28514183)

You can always take groups of photos on the longer exposition available without trailing, and stack them in a specialized software...

Not exactly the same result, but it can be nice, due to the low light contamination and thinner atmosphere (so I presume, less aberration, sharper images...)

Also, the cold temperatures there would allow more shoots to the sensor without heating up, and then, less noise on the images... []

Re:Would be better to look for meteors (1)

confused one (671304) | about 5 years ago | (#28515027)

It's not all that cold. The daytime peak temperature in the summer may be in the 50 F range. At night it gets cold but it may not be cold enough to significantly improve the ccd's performance. I couldn't find the rover raw data to verify this... In the winter its plenty cold; but, they wouldn't have all this extra power to try a little Martian amateur astronomy then. In the winter all of the power is dedicated to just keeping the rover from freezing and a periodic status update to Earth.

Re:Would be better to look for meteors (1)

confused one (671304) | about 5 years ago | (#28515259)

Well I found the weather prediction for today; and, today's average temp is a lot colder than I implied. certainly cold enough to improve the CCD performance; assuming they don't have heaters in there to keep the electronics from freezing.

Re:Would be better to look for meteors (1)

Andor666 (659649) | about 5 years ago | (#28515339)

So I have the answer!! Just switch off the heaters and use the ccd to keep the machine warm! ;) Kidding :P

Clark Kent's paper? (0, Offtopic)

clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) | about 5 years ago | (#28513753)

As so many papers seem to be doing lately, the Daily Planet went under and merged with the Universe Gazette to form UniverseToday. No longer available in a pulp-based life-form.

picture of Earth (3, Interesting)

Ogive17 (691899) | about 5 years ago | (#28513953)

I think it would be interesting seeing a picture of Earth taken from Mars.. even if it was only a faint dot of light in the sky. I imagine the cameras could do this even if it isn't a great picture.

Re:picture of Earth (2, Informative)

rainmaestro (996549) | about 5 years ago | (#28514087)

Not from the Rover, but here's a pic from the old MGS craft: []

Even more impressive (to me, at least) is this snap from Voyager: []

Re:picture of Earth (3, Interesting)

unfasten (1335957) | about 5 years ago | (#28514115)

I think you might be interested in the Pale Blue Dot [] picture (so named by Carl Sagan). It's a picture of earth taken by Voyager 1 from 3.7 billion miles away.

More info: []

Re:picture of Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28515213)

There are some photos in TFA of Earth + Venus during twilight. We're both on the other side of the sun so we're pretty far away and faint.


That can't be right... (2, Funny)

Rival (14861) | about 5 years ago | (#28514013)

Did anyone else read this title as, "Sprint Rollover Begins Making Night Sky Observations"?

I was thinking, "Now what? The phone companies won't let us use our rollover minutes after dusk? Sheesh."

So much for NASA engineering... (0, Redundant)

tech_fixer (1541657) | about 5 years ago | (#28514583)

Maybe its more complicated, but you'd think that with all the dust on Mars, someone would've figured they needed wipers or a cleaning mechanism for the panels.

This is just a temp gig. (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 5 years ago | (#28515201)

Until they get the other rover over to hook up the winch and drag the poor thing out of the muck.

Seriously, I don't doubt this is possible, and they are only waiting for the other team to give in and 'waste' the time driving over and hauling it's little bitty buddy to freedom.

Though maybe another wind event would solve this problem?

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