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NASA To Try Powering Mars Rover "Spirit" Out of Sand Trap

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the calls-to-onstar-have-gone-unanswered dept.

Mars 118

coondoggie writes "NASA's long-running Mars rover Spirit is stuck in a sand trap — a situation the space agency would like to fix. Yesterday NASA said it will begin what it called the long process of extricating Spirit by sending commands that could free the rover. Spirit has been stuck in a place NASA calls 'Troy' since April 23, when the rover's wheels broke through a crust on the surface that was covering bright-toned, slippery sand underneath. After a few drive attempts to get Spirit out in the subsequent days, it began sinking deeper in the sand trap. Driving was suspended to allow time for tests and reviews of possible escape strategies, NASA stated."

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GNAA #gnaa irc.hardchats.com (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096144)

GNAA REBORN UNDER NEW LEADERSHIP

DiKKy Heartiez - Berlin, Norway

President timecop of the GNAA has died today. He died at the age of 55 from excessive lulz in his apartment in Tokyo, Japan while watching faggot cartoons of preteen girls beeing raped by giant testicles. The world will remember him as a total faggot douchebag who had the opportunity to unite the best trolls seen upon the face of the internet into one special hardcore machine of destruction, unfortunately he failed, instead devoting his internet carreer to animu. Although he died like a true hero he will be forever remembered as a total failure.

In the wake of his death the GNAA is thought to perish like all the other so called trolling organizations. The writing is on the wall, they say. The GNAA smells worse than BSD, they say.They have said this for a long time. The GNAA has lived, with a very faint pulse, for years.

DIKKY HEARTIEZ CLAIMS THE PRESIDENCY OF THE GNAA!!!!!!!

With the death of timecop still shocking our chats, not many are able to see ahead. But there is one visionary Nord who has great plans for the new GNAA.
"Under my leadership the GNAA will become the new home of all trolls on the internet. The GNAA will regain its old strength and will be feared by bloggers and jews alike. The time for CHANGE is now." DiKky HearTiez told a shocked audience outside the Gary Niger Memorial Plaza, Nigeria, earlier today. The GNAA will move its Internet Relayed Communications to a new location, following reports of a massive "Distributed Denial Of Service" attack on its previous location, making it unreliable.
"Our operatives are in need of a robust and safe communications service with can_flood for everyone." An anonymous source at the GNAA Black Ops department told reporters at the same conference.

KLULZ supports DiKKy Heartiez presidency!

The infamous KLULZ internet radio station supports DiKKy Heartiez for the new GNAA president.
"KLULZ is behind him 100% and will be broadcasting his speeches and support him in every way possible, we wish him the best of luck and an outstanding presidency. May many blogs burn under DiKky Hearties." This was stated by KLULZ Operations Manager and Gay Nigger g0sp when asked to comment on KLULZ involvement.

About President timecop

DEAD.

About DiKKy HearTiez

The world famous internet nord from Norway LOL HY living in a fjord LOL HY. Currently the new President of the new GNAA. He is also a radiodj on KLULZ and active in many irc chats. Known for several epic trolls in his time. Led the GNAA operation Intel Crapflood 21, who succesfully made GNAA owners of the biggest thread on Slashdot until fixed by admins. Also deeply involved in the war on blogs, and is the one who provided JesuitX with the real screenshots of Faggintosh Leopard. His leadership abilities, high iq and instoppable urge to troll, coupled with his fat Norwegian welfare check will enable him to become the best President the GNAA ever had.

About KLULZ

KLULZ is the internets radio station, bringing you news about the GNAA, hosting shows by prominent djs such as DiKKy, l0de, g0sp, jenk and many others. KLULZ supports DiKKy Heartiez. With mature content this channel is not suitable for children or people under the age of 18. Klulz radio can be heard at http://klulz.com/listen.pls

About GNAA:

GNAA (GAY NIGGER ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA) is the first
organization which gathers GAY NIGGERS from all over America and abroad for one
common goal - being GAY NIGGERS.

Are you GAY [klerck.org] ?

Are you a NIGGER [mugshots.org] ?

Are you a GAY NIGGER [gay-sex-access.com] ?

If you answered "Yes" to all of the above questions, then GNAA (GAY NIGGER
ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
) might be exactly what you've been looking for!

Join GNAA (GAY NIGGER ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA) today, and enjoy
all the benefits of being a full-time GNAA member.

GNAA (GAY NIGGER ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA) is the fastest-growing
GAY NIGGER community with THOUSANDS of members all over United States of
America and the World! You, too, can be a part of GNAA if you join
today!

Why not? It's quick and easy - only 3 simple steps!

  • First, you have to obtain a copy of GAYNIGGERS FROM OUTER SPACE THE MOVIE [imdb.com] and watch it. You can download the movie [idge.net] (~130mb) using BitTorrent.
  • Second, you need to succeed in posting a GNAA First Post [wikipedia.org] on slashdot.org [slashdot.org] , a popular "news for trolls" website.
  • Third, you need to join the official GNAA irc channel #GNAA on irc.gnaa.us, and apply for membership.

Talk to one of the ops or any of the other members in the channel to sign up
today
! Upon submitting your application, you will be required to submit
links to your successful First Post, and you will be tested on
your knowledge of GAYNIGGERS FROM OUTER SPACE.

If you are having trouble locating #GNAA, the official GAY NIGGER
ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
irc channel, you might be on a wrong irc network.
The correct network is Hardchats, and you can connect to
irc.hardchats.com as our official server. Follow this link [irc] if you are using an irc client such as mIRC.

If you have mod points and would like to support GNAA, please moderate this post up.

Copyright (c) 2003-2009 Gay Nigger Association of America [www.gnaa.us]

Re:GNAA #gnaa irc.hardchats.com (-1, Offtopic)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096256)

Klerck we miss you buddy :( R.I.P

Re:GNAA #gnaa irc.hardchats.com (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096632)

RIP

Fat Chicks... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096660)

Get your pussies ready!

Re:GNAA #gnaa irc.hardchats.com (1)

wampus (1932) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096784)

Good, maybe we can get some quality trolls back on this sumbitch.

Oh no (5, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096160)

Methinks it is time for somebody to get out and push.

Re:Oh no (4, Funny)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096166)

Maybe they should switch to a ten iron instead. That should work.

Re:Oh no (4, Funny)

mrsurb (1484303) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096228)

They should just call for a mulligan... no wait, that's for water traps like on the moon.

Exactly! (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096620)

It's Mars, so who cares if they slice it and they don't have to worry about any water traps because if there are any, they're solid.

unplayable lie (2, Funny)

gadget junkie (618542) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096958)

In all fairness, they should declare it unplayable and drop it elsewhere in the trap, as per Rule 28. [usga.org]

Re:Oh no (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30098176)

Use and open-face club. The Sand Wedge.

Mmmmmm Open-face Club Sandwich...

Re:Oh no (3, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096884)

Or they could just try plan B: take all the hard drives, erase the surveillance tapes, wipe the fingerprints off everything and run.

Re:Oh no (1)

GypsyEye (1678540) | more than 4 years ago | (#30097266)

HA! That's the first thing I thought of. Art imitating life imitating art! Wolowitz!

Re:Oh no (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30098776)

Floor mats

Re:Oh no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30100120)

Or maybe you'll drive up in your Hummer and offer to tow it out?

#gnaa irc.hardchats.com (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096196)

GNAA REBORN UNDER NEW LEADERSHIP

DiKKy Heartiez - Berlin, Norway

President timecop of the GNAA has died today. He died at the age of 55 from excessive lulz in his apartment in Tokyo, Japan while watching faggot cartoons of preteen girls beeing raped by giant testicles. The world will remember him as a total faggot douchebag who had the opportunity to unite the best trolls seen upon the face of the internet into one special hardcore machine of destruction, unfortunately he failed, instead devoting his internet carreer to animu. Although he died like a true hero he will be forever remembered as a total failure.

In the wake of his death the GNAA is thought to perish like all the other so called trolling organizations. The writing is on the wall, they say. The GNAA smells worse than BSD, they say.They have said this for a long time. The GNAA has lived, with a very faint pulse, for years.

DIKKY HEARTIEZ CLAIMS THE PRESIDENCY OF THE GNAA!!!!!!!

With the death of timecop still shocking our chats, not many are able to see ahead. But there is one visionary Nord who has great plans for the new GNAA.
"Under my leadership the GNAA will become the new home of all trolls on the internet. The GNAA will regain its old strength and will be feared by bloggers and jews alike. The time for CHANGE is now." DiKky HearTiez told a shocked audience outside the Gary Niger Memorial Plaza, Nigeria, earlier today. The GNAA will move its Internet Relayed Communications to a new location, following reports of a massive "Distributed Denial Of Service" attack on its previous location, making it unreliable.
"Our operatives are in need of a robust and safe communications service with can_flood for everyone." An anonymous source at the GNAA Black Ops department told reporters at the same conference.

KLULZ supports DiKKy Heartiez presidency!

The infamous KLULZ internet radio station supports DiKKy Heartiez for the new GNAA president.
"KLULZ is behind him 100% and will be broadcasting his speeches and support him in every way possible, we wish him the best of luck and an outstanding presidency. May many blogs burn under DiKky Hearties." This was stated by KLULZ Operations Manager and Gay Nigger g0sp when asked to comment on KLULZ involvement.

About President timecop

DEAD.

About DiKKy HearTiez

The world famous internet nord from Norway LOL HY living in a fjord LOL HY. Currently the new President of the new GNAA. He is also a radiodj on KLULZ and active in many irc chats. Known for several epic trolls in his time. Led the GNAA operation Intel Crapflood 21, who succesfully made GNAA owners of the biggest thread on Slashdot until fixed by admins. Also deeply involved in the war on blogs, and is the one who provided JesuitX with the real screenshots of Faggintosh Leopard. His leadership abilities, high iq and instoppable urge to troll, coupled with his fat Norwegian welfare check will enable him to become the best President the GNAA ever had.

About KLULZ

KLULZ is the internets radio station, bringing you news about the GNAA, hosting shows by prominent djs such as DiKKy, l0de, g0sp, jenk and many others. KLULZ supports DiKKy Heartiez. With mature content this channel is not suitable for children or people under the age of 18. Klulz radio can be heard at http://klulz.com/listen.pls

About GNAA:

GNAA (GAY NIGGER ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA) is the first
organization which gathers GAY NIGGERS from all over America and abroad for one
common goal - being GAY NIGGERS.

Are you GAY [klerck.org] ?

Are you a NIGGER [mugshots.org] ?

Are you a GAY NIGGER [gay-sex-access.com] ?

If you answered "Yes" to all of the above questions, then GNAA (GAY NIGGER
ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
) might be exactly what you've been looking for!

Join GNAA (GAY NIGGER ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA) today, and enjoy
all the benefits of being a full-time GNAA member.

GNAA (GAY NIGGER ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA) is the fastest-growing
GAY NIGGER community with THOUSANDS of members all over United States of
America and the World! You, too, can be a part of GNAA if you join
today!

Why not? It's quick and easy - only 3 simple steps!

  • First, you have to obtain a copy of GAYNIGGERS FROM OUTER SPACE THE MOVIE [imdb.com] and watch it. You can download the movie [idge.net] (~130mb) using BitTorrent.
  • Second, you need to succeed in posting a GNAA First Post [wikipedia.org] on slashdot.org [slashdot.org] , a popular "news for trolls" website.
  • Third, you need to join the official GNAA irc channel #GNAA on irc.gnaa.us, and apply for membership.

Talk to one of the ops or any of the other members in the channel to sign up
today
! Upon submitting your application, you will be required to submit
links to your successful First Post, and you will be tested on
your knowledge of GAYNIGGERS FROM OUTER SPACE.

If you are having trouble locating #GNAA, the official GAY NIGGER
ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
irc channel, you might be on a wrong irc network.
The correct network is Hardchats, and you can connect to
irc.hardchats.com as our official server. Follow this link [irc] if you are using an irc client such as mIRC.

If you have mod points and would like to support GNAA, please moderate this post up.

Copyright (c) 2003-2009 Gay Nigger Association of America [www.gnaa.us]

It's a conspiracy! (3, Funny)

lordmatrix (1439871) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096220)

Since the Mars rover is not really on Mars, but on a secret location on Earth, perhaps they could just use the "hand of god" to give it a little help :)

Actually, it is on Mars (2, Funny)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096296)

So is NASA, their buildings on earth are just a movie prop to fool the gullible, like you.

Re:Actually, it is on Mars (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096844)

No they're a soundstage. Those moon landings had to be filmed somewhere silly.

The Shuttles are simply large fireworks packed into a paper mache hull. If you look closely you can see the "made in China" stickers on the "engines".

Re:Actually, it is on Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096998)

"dammit greg! I don't you not to make the sand trap too good!"

Re:Actually, it is on Mars (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099950)

Yeah, well, I don't your mom last night! Why are you always yelling at me?!

Re:It's a conspiracy! (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096556)

on a secret location on Earth, perhaps they could just use the "hand of god" to give it a little help :)

I think you're confusing earth with an overdramatic novel ;)

Re:It's a conspiracy! (5, Funny)

hazee (728152) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096890)

I fail to see why it takes Diego Maradona to free the rover, wherever it is.

Re:It's a conspiracy! (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099556)

If they had really been thinking, they would have made it like The Animal [retrojunk.com] with retractable claws in the wheels. If only NASA engineers had watched Monster Trucks they would have known how to prepare for this eventuality.

Actually the retractable claws didn't work very well, but they looked awesome on the commercials. Sigh.

Re:It's a conspiracy! (1)

byrdfl3w (1193387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099934)

Don't be ridiculous. Of course it's on Mars.

Obviously it just found evidence of alien life.

Thus we must suffer this abysmally flimsy cover story about "breaking crusts" and "slippery sands", whilst the military take control of the rover to examine the evidence. I am almost positive they have already prepared missiles and instructed the scientists to push the secret button on the LHC.

Which, unless I am very much mistaken, is bound to activate some sort of Omega 13 device.

[CLICK]

Don't be ridiculous. Of course it's on Mars.

AAA's new market (5, Funny)

Dayofswords (1548243) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096250)

Mars is the new frontier for the AAA people to explore.

Up next:OnStar

Re:AAA's new market (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096652)

Who modded this as flamebait?? This is a reasonably funny joke. I suspect someone was a tad too quick on the trigger with the moderation and mistook AAA (automotive association of America) for whatever spam post above is spamming "GNAA".

Re:AAA's new market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30103002)

"flaim" in your sig should be "flame"

Re:AAA's new market (0, Redundant)

TheGreenNuke (1612943) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096788)

Must have been hard to come up with that one.

Posted by Soulskill on Saturday November 14, @05:08AM from the calls-to-onstar-have-gone-unanswered dept.

Re:AAA's new market (1)

Dayofswords (1548243) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096812)

I didn't even bother to read that.

accidental unoriginality.

Re:AAA's new market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30097930)

Last I heard you had to be standing beside your vehicle with your AAA card ready...

Re:AAA's new market (1)

starblazer (49187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30100708)

There are multiple problems to this:

Good luck finding someone to run the call for 19 dollars + enroute mileage.
There would not be a valid plate, registration, and AAA member with the vehicle.

Cross Country Automotive Services (aka Onstar) would be even worse.... they would ask if that 308160 minute ETA was due to weather or if you were just busy.

How about a hand for NASA/JPL/Cornell/etc... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096272)

Thanks folks, I'm here all week. Don't forget to tip your waitress.

kolko mu e ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096292)

dve letvi pod gumetata, dvama marsianeca da butat i gaz do lamarinata ...

Re:kolko mu e ... (2, Funny)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096374)

Homer: And booga booga to you too!

Close... VERY close... (2, Interesting)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096524)

It is not Boogarian, but Bulgarian*.

Something along the lines of... "Put two planks under the tires, get two martians to push and then floor it."

*IANAB, nor do I speak Bulgarian but it is quite similar to other Slavic languages, including Bosnian - which I do speak.

Re:Close... VERY close... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096698)

> *IANAB, nor do I speak Bulgarian but it is quite similar to other Slavic languages, including Bosnian - which I do speak.

There's no such thing. Do you claim to speak Belgian and Australian too?

Re:Close... VERY close... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30097362)

No, but I do understand a lot of "American" ;)

NASA Quality & Space Commercialization (3, Interesting)

slifox (605302) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096318)

It seems like future rovers should have instrumentation to sense the composition of the ground they are about to tread over, as well as extra limbs that can be used to repair the rover (even just a brush to clean the solar panels) or assist its movement (grappling hook?)

Say what you will about NASA's large budgets or sometimes questionable research efforts... when put to the task, they can produce some remarkable feats of engineering

The longevity of the Mars rovers never ceases to amaze me. Just the fact that we are controlling robots we landed on Mars is cool enough, but that they lasted 22 times longer than their intended 90-day lifetime in the harsh Mars environment, is truly an example of quality engineering.

Of course, their over-engineering of human risk-related matters leaves something to be desired. Anyone exploring uncharted territories has to accept the risks involved, including the possibility of a one way trip. Is that really such a bad thing though? There are plenty of risk-takers who thrive on this, and plenty of them would love to make history as part of the first colonization team on the moon (for example).

Instead of focusing resources on ensuring safe return, we should spend those resources on setting up permanent, sustainable facilities on the moon, so that we can slowly reduce our need to continually send materials. Is shipping miniature mining and production robot/facility to the moon that unimaginable? Once you can harvest and produce key materials on the moon, the task of setting up long-term human habitats becomes at least slightly easier.

I really hope the commercialization of space travel is the catalyst needed to accelerate the development of space colonization, and I hope that the excessive human-risk aversion policies that arguably held NASA back are not forced upon the participating private companies of the new space era.

On yet another mildly-unrelated note:
I'd love to see more development on the Launch Loop concept, which seems WAY more feasible than the space elevators... no science/technology breakthroughs are required, just a lot of energy and money ;)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Launch_loop [wikipedia.org]

Re:NASA Quality & Space Commercialization (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096512)

It seems like future rovers should have instrumentation to sense the composition of the ground they are about to tread over, as well as extra limbs that can be used to repair the rover (even just a brush to clean the solar panels) or assist its movement (grappling hook?)

Dang, why didn't the rocket scientists at NASA think of that? You should really consider applying for a job there designing spacecraft and rovers. They could really use your help for the upcoming Mars sample return mission.

Re:NASA Quality & Space Commercialization (3, Informative)

barzok (26681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096588)

The panel-clearing brush was considered. Then discarded. They didn't intend for the rovers to last more than 90 days, and determined there wouldn't be a significant dust build-up in that time, so they used the weight & space for items more valuable to the mission.

Re:NASA Quality & Space Commercialization (5, Insightful)

jdigriz (676802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096694)

Guys, the 90-day planned lifespan of the rovers was pure politics. Congress wouldn't have gone for, "Yeah, we're gonna need funding for the next 5 years." if told so up-front. At the same time, it wouldn't have made sense to allocate that money from the beginning since there was a non-zero chance that the rovers might auger in, like the Mars Polar Lander did, and that none of that funding for surface ops would be needed after all. So they built the rovers, said "Well, if we get 90 days out of them, we can declare Mission Accomplished." and went with it. Since they were solar-powered there's no particular reason that they would last only that long. 90 days was a classic case of "underpromise and overdeliver." If there had been some sort of catastrophic design flaw and they failed after only 30 days they could have claimed to have succeeded with 1/3 of the mission objectives, etc.

Re:NASA Quality & Space Commercialization (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096858)

While that may be true, nonetheless 5 years of operation on Mars is damn impressive.
"Underpromise" or not, they certainly overdelivered

Re:NASA Quality & Space Commercialization (1)

Albinoman (584294) | more than 4 years ago | (#30100322)

I didn't catch that, I was listening for Voyager 1 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:NASA Quality & Space Commercialization (4, Insightful)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30097466)

The problem isn't politics, it's requirements. In order meet a requirement like mission length, you have to show that the system will be X% capable of operating for the desired life span (where X is defined by your customer). To show that a system is capable of surviving 90 days on Mars is likely multiple orders of magnitude cheaper than to show that a system is capable of surviving 5 years. Right off the bat, you would need

  • increased solar panel area to deal with end-of-life conditions, both cell degradation and environmental effects;
  • more, bigger batteries to ensure that they can maintain sufficient charge after 5 years;
  • more expensive electronic components that can handle higher radiation doses, and more electronic redundancy to protect against single-event faults;
  • redundancy of moving parts critical to the mission (e.g. wheel motors); and,
  • as you mentioned, ground operations, both personnel, equipment, and antenna time.

This is just what I thought of in the 60 s it took me to write this post -- I'm sure there are many more factors anyone could dig up. The point is that aiming for 5 years, even with intent of only operating it for 90 days, would drive the cost up prohibitively.

Aikon-

Tracks (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099734)

I'll add his to your list as well, because I have to do a variety of off road travel all the time for work. Tracks would have been better option. When wheeled stuff gets stuck around here (and it happens a few times a year), it's the tracked vehicles that get them out. The rovers are designed for real slow, careful and deliberate progress, so I wouldn't worry about them throwing a track either.

Ya, I know, tracks are heavier and so on. Doesn't matter, the whole point of these Martian buggies, hence their name, is to be "rovers" not "stuck in place now almost useless wheeled" vehicles. If you want the thing to move over random terrain, there is a method of choice that works. Wheels are for going fast and being cheap, not for maximum traction. You look at the most expensive largest tractors now..tracked because they get you plus whatever you got hooked up from point A to B, regardless of terrain, short of massive 10 foot deep mud, etc or like really exotic rock crawlers with long travel suspension, which the rovers were never designed to do anyway, just drive around big rocks.

Re:NASA Quality & Space Commercialization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30098514)

I'd guess 90 days was a safe guess considering the unknown environment at the time of design - based primarily on in situ data from the 2 Viking landers which were at 2 different geographic locations. You only think you know the winds, you don't truly understand what causes the dust storms. You aren't sure entirely what causes global and seasonal variations. You have a lot of hardware that may fail (for instance you don't know if a wheel fails if you will be stopped permanently or will be able to pull it behind you). You don't know if you will get stuck in the sand (which we can now assume was just good luck it didn't happen 5 years earlier). You don't know that your electronics will not short due to off-gassing because of the low atmospheric pressure or a dust storm. You don't know if you are going to have a single-event-phenomena which may result in only a bitflip or a single-event-burnout. There are many variable you do not know.

Re:NASA Quality & Space Commercialization (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099324)

Guys, the 90-day planned lifespan of the rovers was pure politics.

Sorry, but that's a baseless accusation. There's no evidence for it. I would also point out that the rovers have suffered multiple malfunctions already including broken joint motors and stuck wheels. They were simply not designed for long-term use. The fact that the rovers are still operating is part luck and part clever work-arounds.

And dust-storms nearly froze the rovers to death (cracked electronics) by blocking sun. If these storms were a bit worse, like the one Mariner 9 encountered, who knows what would have happened.

Further, the Sojourner rover lasted only about a month.
 

Re:NASA Quality & Space Commercialization (1)

jdigriz (676802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30101142)

The Sojourner rover was a completely different design. The evidence is in the factor of 22 that the planned design lifetime was wrong, and the six funding extension requests. The fact that luck and clever workarounds were needed is what makes it exploration. Not being able to completely predict the environment being explored is not a design limitation. A design limitation is, e.g. "The Plutonium in the Radioisotope Thermal Generators of Pioneer 10 will decay to the point that there is insufficient power to transmit an intelligible signal within 30 years." "The Rover's battery was only rated for 40 charge/discharge cycles which was determined by groundside testing."

Re:NASA Quality & Space Commercialization (1)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30097318)

Instead of focusing resources on ensuring safe return, we should spend those resources on setting up permanent, sustainable facilities on the moon, so that we can slowly reduce our need to continually send materials. Is shipping miniature mining and production robot/facility to the moon that unimaginable? Once you can harvest and produce key materials on the moon, the task of setting up long-term human habitats becomes at least slightly easier.

I think I saw a documentary [wikipedia.org] about this.

Aikon-

Overly ambitious (3, Interesting)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30097650)

That's how a rover which was designed to be cheap and lightweight would have become a multiton semi-mobile laboratory. Adding on accessories and desirable features, then stronger equipment to carry it all, is how much larger and more expensive space probes are created. Problems with such designs caused smaller and simpler designs to be favored. But... why aren't there six more of these things wandering around by now?

Re:Overly ambitious (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#30098448)

But... why aren't there six more of these things wandering around by now?

Now that is an excellent question. Obviously it's a robust, proven design. Producing a number of rovers will drive the cost down. They should have fired off a few after Spirit and Opportunity hit two years (although it would have been embarrassing at that point if the new rovers died at 90 days).

Re:Overly ambitious (2, Interesting)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30098640)

But... why aren't there six more of these things wandering around by now?

Why should there be six more wandering around? Their landing systems only allow them to reach a very small proportion of the Martian surface and they are only designed to answer a limited series of scientific questions during their very brief lifespan. Also, odds are that of those six, two would have died shortly after landing, three would have died on or about the ninety day limit, and the remaining one would have died during the first winter. (I.E. it's very hard to give an analogy that even remotely conveys how miraculous it is that Spirit and Opportunity are still functioning.)

Re:Overly ambitious (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099234)

Yes, we should have already seen six more rovers die. Why hasn't it happened?

Re:Overly ambitious (2, Interesting)

ScottMaxwell (108831) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099320)

why aren't there six more of these things wandering around by now?

Because I can drive only two at a time. When these two are done (gods forbid), then it's time to send two more. :-)

Re:Overly ambitious (1)

NewsWatcher (450241) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099618)

When the Mars rovers were sent out, Mars was unusually close to Earth. Sending out similar vehicles now would be much tougher, take much longer, require much bigger fuel loads, cost much more money, and give many more opportunities for errors.

At some point the US may want to ask whether it desperately wants a functional healthcare system, or six more Mars rovers. I mean, the rovers did a great job at first, but apart from difficulties in continuing their journey, what have they added scientifically to our understanding of Mars in the past year?

Re:Overly ambitious (1)

Restil (31903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30101138)

6 rovers could be put on Mars for a small fraction of what the currently debated health care bills are going to cost. The $700 billion stimulus package could have put 2800 rovers on Mars. It would likely have been just as economically beneficial too. Think of how much science based education and jobs THAT would have created.

-Restil

don't forget to (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096348)

lock the hubs first

It's in a sand trap? (3, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096412)

It's not just trapped in the sand? So we finally have proof there's intelligent life on Mars, which builds traps!

Re:It's in a sand trap? (2, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096816)

It's not just trapped in the sand? So we finally have proof there's intelligent life on Mars, which builds traps!

No, it's a sand trap, which implies golf. We have proof there's arrogant bastards on Mars.

Just goes to show (2, Funny)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096426)

Just goes to show that all those smart people sometimes make mistakes, why they should hire a couple of rednecks to help design the next version, they enjoy off-roadin'

Re:Just goes to show (2, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096614)

They get stuck too. Difference is, they've got a buddy with his own 4-wheeler and tow chains. Maybe they need to send these things in pairs...

Re:Just goes to show (1)

pinery (1678654) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099610)

The redesign would include a winch, homegrown and a CB?

lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096442)

i think they're gonna have to Flintstone this one.

mars rover blog.. (4, Informative)

Frogg (27033) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096446)

here's a link to a blog by someone on the mars rover team, Mars and Me [blogspot.com]

i've been following it for a while now - it's truly fascinating

Re:mars rover blog.. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099210)

a blog by someone on the mars rover team

2009.04.23 - Rats! Got stuck in a dune.
2009.04.24 - Still stuck
2009.04.25 - Still stuck
2009.04.26 - Still stuck
2009.04.27 - Still stuck
2009.04.28 - Still stuck ....

Re:mars rover blog.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30099274)

Of course, the blog is tape-delayed by 5 years, so you're going to have to wait quite a while if you want to read about the current escape attempts.

Re:mars rover blog.. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099422)

Of course, the blog is tape-delayed by 5 years

Yeah, what's up with that? "Sol 304" (304 Mars days since landing) is logged at "2009-11-10". They're talking about moving around, so it couldn't be current.
       

play it like golf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096500)

(this is serious) ask Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus what to do... my suggestion is to send some kind of impulse from an orbiting probe that would lift the whole "rover" - be it a mini-storm kind of thing or simply a wind-type blow, much like a golf player would do with a driver club from a sandpit...

Re:play it like golf (1)

pmarini (989354) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096554)

(this is serious) ask Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus what to do... my suggestion is to send some kind of impulse from an orbiting probe that would lift the whole "rover" - be it a mini-storm kind of thing or simply a wind-type blow, much like a golf player would do with a driver club from a sandpit...

maybe a disused concorde ?

Use the arm ? (4, Interesting)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096590)

I wonder if they've thought of using the robotic arm, either to dig away some of the sand obstructing the wheels or to support the rover while they try to move it. I know from driving 360 excavators that your arm can be most useful in that respect, especially if you move the arm backwards at the same time as pushing down and driving. Maybe the arm's not strong enough, or the rover can't operate its wheels and the arm at the same time, but surely that's just programming. An alternative is to pick up small stones and place them by the wheels to get some traction. There is a more complete pictorial record here. [nasa.gov]

Re:Use the arm ? (2, Funny)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096638)

The pictorial record you linked to is truly fascinating, but while looking at it, I realized something:

NASA missed a golden opportunity to draw Kilroy on another planet.

What is science, next to the chance to immortalize Kilroy?

Re:Use the arm ? (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30098756)

The end of the arm is a cluster of scientific instruments, not a bucket like your excavator. Not only can it not pick up anything, using it to push rocks/soils around or to lift the vehicle risks damaging or destroying the very instruments that are the rovers reason for being. It's akin to sticking your head into a grinder to save the tip of your little finger.

Re:Use the arm ? (5, Informative)

ScottMaxwell (108831) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099264)

Using the arm to help isn't completely off the table, but pretty close, largely for reasons you conjectured about in your post. First, we can't actually push while driving, because the motor controllers are shared between the arm and the wheels -- you can run one or the other, but not both at once.

We could, potentially, push down with the arm to lift Spirit slightly, then run the wheels. But Spirit's just not strong enough to make much difference. :-) In the best case, we can push down with maybe 70N of force, and that's if we had a hard surface to push on. (But if we had a hard surface to push on, we probably wouldn't be mired in this stuff in the first place.) For comparison, you'd need to apply ~ 650N to completely lift Spirit, so the arm can apply only about 1/10 of the needed force. As you can see, she wasn't designed to do one-handed push-ups. :-)

Further, doing so would pose a high risk of damage to the arm itself, and since four of Spirit's science instruments -- about 2/3 of the total science payload -- live on the end of that arm, the potential downsides are quite significant.

In addition, it's not completely clear that pushing down with the arm to partially lift Spirit would actually help: one effect of that would be to reduce the traction on the wheels, and not having enough traction is one of our big problems here.

Resculpting the terrain is a less unlikely scenario, but something we're keeping in our back pocket for now. There are few suitable rocks within reach, we've never tried it and (again) would risk damaging the arm by doing so, and on top of all that we don't even know if it would actually help, since the rocks might simply slip quickly under the wheels without moving us forward much. Even so, if things get desperate enough, we might possibly try that one.

The soil we're stuck in is very weird, and has some counterintuitive properties. It doesn't work like dirt or mud. We mixed up a batch of simulant to drive our test rover in, and while there are known differences between the simulant and the real soil, the experience of working with the simulant is quite illuminating. The stuff feels like flour and flows like water: run your hand through it, and it flows away from you like water does, it just stops moving sooner. Weird, weird stuff.

Re:Use the arm ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30100152)

Thank you for this post. It's great to hear from someone actually involved in the project, rather than the typical Slashdot speculation.

Re:Use the arm ? (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30100240)

Can you tell us the simulant's composition? Is it something one can (safely) recreate at home? It sounds exactly like something many geeks would love to play around with. Including me.

Re:Use the arm ? (4, Informative)

ScottMaxwell (108831) | more than 4 years ago | (#30100386)

It's equal parts -- can't remember if that's by weight or by volume, but I think it's by volume -- of Lincoln 60 fire clay and food-grade diatomaceous earth. (FGDE is normally used for, among other things, de-worming horses and killing centipedes. I tasted it. Bleah.)

One entertaining afternoon a few months back, when we were testing out different mixes, fellow rover driver Paolo Bellutta and simulant designer Kim Lichtenberg (the mix is called "KimSim" :-) and I drove out to a local ranch, picked up a huge bag of food-grade diatomaceous earth, and drove back to Lab. Later, I was up to my elbows hand-mixing a batch of the stuff in a wheelbarrow. Ah, the things I get paid to do!

Re:Use the arm ? (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30100854)

Hey, I just read about ten of your blog posts for the first time! Keep up the good work... and try not to crash. :)

Re:Use the arm ? (1)

Sparklepony (1088131) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099292)

I am sure that this team of scientists and engineers, despite being intimately familiar with the rover's systems and having spent eight months studying the problem of getting it unstuck, have not thought of using the robotic arm yet. I hope they read Slashdot. :) Frustrating as it is that the rover's stuck in something that a good solid push would likely get it out of, one also has to consider the costs involved in adding that capability to future rovers. If adding arms for self-maintenance and so forth doubles the cost of the rover it had better at least double the projected lifespan of the rover or it would make more sense to simply send two of them instead. Sending a human to Mars might cost on the order of a hundred times what one of these rovers cost. Wouldn't it be awesome to have a hundred of these rovers scooting around a hundred different places on Mars for five years or more?

Send maintenance (1)

alexyap (626430) | more than 4 years ago | (#30096602)

Just send a maintenance guy out there to give it a push. Perhaps the most efficient way to explore Mars in the future is to send an army of robots to do the exploring, plus a couple of humans just to service the robots and get them out of trouble spots.

Re:Send maintenance (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30100268)

We just send a Terminator.

Arnold: "It's boring out hier. Vhen do I get to shoot something?"
NASA: "Shut up and walk over to that crater and analyze the soil there."
Arnold: "Vhone day I'll be back and zhen you'll all be sorry."

wolowitz! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096762)

oh wolowitz, you just couldnt resist to invite a girl to the control room again, could you!

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30096800)

October called. It wants it's story back.

In case you wonder what they're going to do: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30097356)

Data show Spirit is straddling the edge of a 26-foot-wide crater that had been filled long ago with sulfate-bearing sands produced in a hot water or steam environment. The deposits in the crater formed distinct layers with different compositions and tints, and they are capped by a crusty soil. It is that soil that Spirit's wheels broke through. The buried crater lies mainly to Spirit's left. Engineers have plotted an escape route from Troy that heads up a mild slope away from the crater.
"We'll start by steering the wheels straight and driving, though we may have to steer the wheels to the right to counter any downhill slip to the left," said Ashley Stroupe, a JPL rover driver and Spirit extraction testing coordinator. "Straight-ahead driving is intended to get the rover's center of gravity past a rock that lies underneath Spirit. Gaining horizontal distance without losing too much vertical clearance will be a key to success. The right front wheel's inability to rotate greatly increases the challenge."

fuCk a s4it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30097552)

big deal. Death big picture. What Juggernaut either series ofU eHxploding

Let's send an astronaut there. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30097588)

Human walks up in space suit. Picks up robot, dusts solar panels off with can of air spray, robot goes on.

It's Sand Gnomes, I Tell Ya! (1)

Toad-san (64810) | more than 4 years ago | (#30097812)

^^

The title paints an image (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30098046)

I got this picture of Tiger Woods in a space suit with a sand wedge.

By the way... (1)

Kopachris (1594707) | more than 4 years ago | (#30098186)

Both rovers have been in this same sort of situation before. The first time it happened, NASA took a full-scale model out into their back yard to test various methods of getting them out. They've gotten the rovers out of sand before, they can do it again.

Re:By the way... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099480)

They've gotten the rovers out of sand before, they can do it
again.

They sounded more bleak this time, though, and have taken even longer to test ideas. In part because Spirit has a bum wheel, meaning poor grip. Oppy didn't have that problem when it was stuck.
           

You know what's not stopped by a little sand? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30098536)

People.

A manned mission could have also accomplished all of the science Spirit has done in five years in a week, tops.

Re:You know what's not stopped by a little sand? (2, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099370)

A manned mission could have also accomplished all of the science Spirit has done in five years in a week, tops.

And cost at least 100 times more.
     

Re:You know what's not stopped by a little sand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30099908)

More like 1000 times more. Minimum investment for a human expedition would be > $1 trillion USD.

WhatEVER. (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#30100090)

More like 1000 times more. Minimum investment for a human expedition would be > $1 trillion USD.

Great! At least that money doesn't end up in smoking piles of Afghan/Iraqi debris and Halliburton's cost-plus "Burn Pits".

Instead, that trillion+ dollars would be used to invest in sciences, useful industry and tons of honest employment. Basically, it's the same as plowing cash into R&D, investing in the country. You know the drill; going to the moon didn't bankrupt anybody. In fact, it served to propel America to world leadership in technology and a robust economy.

But instead, we're today giving that cash to war profiteers, psychopathic bank CEOs and corrupt pharmaceutical companies, all while using propaganda to sell the population on these scams.

I'd MUCH rather spend that money on exploration and expansion of human awareness.

I don't know if NASA is the right agency for the job, but in theory, it's a much better way to spend our money than on killing, ripping off and poisoning people, don't you think?

-FL

Big bang theory (1)

jdc18 (1654245) | more than 4 years ago | (#30098986)

I love that big bang theory episode

OK Where's the big hairy spider? (1)

fleebait (1432569) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099168)

Gotta keep that camera spinning, over every shoulder. With 6 wheels, there's gotta be a couple shoulders some where... Nobody panic now, just because a wheel or two slips in the sand, does NOT mean that someone or some other big hairy thing is not digging under the wheels

fix (1)

gugufrommdy (1665939) | more than 4 years ago | (#30099482)

./getouttasand.sh

"I can get us outta here Marge..." (1)

TerribleNews (1195393) | more than 4 years ago | (#30100164)

"but it's gonna take a whole lotta floorin'."

but, (1)

krunchyfrog (786414) | more than 4 years ago | (#30103092)

Weren't the rovers already destroyed by transformers already? Mayyybe it's really transformers posing as rovers faking to be stuck in sand to study human behavior?

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