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Could the Tumbleweed Rover Dominate Mars?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the now-the-old-tumbleweeds-look-suspicious-too dept.

Mars 105

astroengine writes "Mars has been visited by orbiters, landers and rovers, but could the future of Martian exploration be inspired by a wind-blown sphere? NASA and other research institutions have been developing the Mars Tumbleweed rover for the last decade, but with the help of the Planetary Science Institute, the Tumbleweed is now vying for some serious funding to further develop the technologies required. Although the Tumbleweed would be wholly dependent on the prevailing winds on the Martian surface, the lightweight and relatively cheap design could lead the way for a 'swarm' of independent Tumbleweeds to explore vast regions of the planet (video link). In 2003 and 2004, NASA even tested an inflatable Tumbleweed prototype on Greenland and Antarctica — it traversed hundreds of miles with ease, continually relaying location and environmental data."

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How appropriate... (2, Insightful)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379580)

"Tumbleweed" is a perfect description of what will be left of the space program after the current administration is done with it!

Re:How appropriate... (4, Informative)

TheJokeExplainer (1760894) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379674)

the parent is of course, referring to the cutbacks the Obama administration has done with the space program like the axing of the Constellation Program manned moon missions [reuters.com] .

Re:How appropriate... (3, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380230)

The budget I read added more money to NASA's budget. But yes, it did kill Constellation.

Re:How appropriate... (1)

dpastern (1077461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31386044)

Yeah, but if we can't even reliably (and cheaply) get to the moon, we have no hope of Mars, or other planets for that matter, let alone extra sol planetary systems. We're stuck on this planet, and we're screwing it seriously. Obama has been like Australia's Kevin Rudd - all talk, no action. At least Bush Jr did something (admittedly not good, but he did *do* something). All Obama does is talk. He's the most unimpressive president I can remember. Inaction does more harm than bad action.

Dave

Re:How inappropriate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380420)

Wouldn't the spheres get trapped at all low points where the wind does

Re:How appropriate... (4, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379698)

I'm not even going to bash you cause I've seen so much of these kinds of snarky comments lately that I've come to expect them. But if you could be so kind, could you please tell me where you're getting your opinion from? I mean, I assume you're not actually a worker in Florida or Alabama who has a vested interest in extending the killed-14-but-plenty-left Shuttle or pretending that Canstellation was ever going anywhere, so obviously some pundit somewhere has filled your head with this baffling opinion so who was it? Was it Dr. Harrison Schmitt speaking at the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition in Florida (what the hell kind of a platform is that anyway?) with his absurd comments about China and Russia - the comments about Russia being more absurd than the ones about China but only slightly - which basically amounted to "reds up the beds and now in space!!" Or was it Andy Pasztor at the Wall Street Journal who has done nothing but demonstrate just how long journalism has sunk to, misrepresenting first Burt Rutan's comments - causing Burt to publish his communications in full and with not even an apology from the WSJ - and then misrepresenting an internal NASA memo and blatantly fabricating quotes saying Bolden was seeing a "Plan B" prompting Bolden to release a denial.. and again, without even an apology from the WSJ. Ironically, one place you couldn't be getting this nonsense from is Fox News...

Re:How appropriate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31379766)

+1

Mod Parent Up! (-1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379782)

When did republicans take over Slashdot?

Re:Mod Parent Up! (5, Insightful)

OrwellianLurker (1739950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379790)

People who oppose Democrats != Republicans

People who oppose Republicans != Democrats

Re:Mod Parent Up! (0, Flamebait)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379796)

Too true.. but people who believe everything they read, don't actually seek out other opinions and form their own decision, preferably by reading primary sources (like the actual budget documents!!) typically are republicans. :)

Thus the Fox News crack.

Re:Mod Parent Up! (2, Insightful)

OrwellianLurker (1739950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379842)

Too true.. but people who believe everything they read, don't actually seek out other opinions and form their own decision, preferably by reading primary sources (like the actual budget documents!!) are typical. :)

FTFY. Ignorance is bipartisan.

Re:Mod Parent Up! (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#31383420)

FTFY. Ignorance is bipartisan.

Ignorance is ominpartisan, universal, and perhaps even more than that; for "against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain."

Quote not attributed for reasons of consistency ;).

Re:Mod Parent Up! (2, Insightful)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380388)

... but people who believe everything they read, don't actually seek out other opinions ... typically are republicans. :)

As the poster before me stated, ignorance is bipartisan. Neither party has a lock on the type of behavior you describe. Let me "prove" it by countering your opinion with some personal experience which, while hardly statistically relevant, is at least as credible as your stereotypical declaration. As it happens, I almost always vote for the conservative candidate, so even though I am registered unenrolled most would consider me a Republican. Anyhow, I have been staying on top of the health care reform bill by actually downloading and reading each of the bills. And through the course of this national debate, I have participated in many hallway discussions with my liberal colleagues who reflexively spout party line ignorance. None of them have ever made an attempt to find out what the actual bill says, or what "the other side" is saying. They dismissively disparage all who are opposed as right-wing nutjobs, Limbaugh tools, Faux (so cute) News watchers, etc. Then in the next breath they say how they only listen to NPR because that is the only balanced new source. [Yes, they say this with a straight face; I know, hard to believe such ignorance exists but there you have it]. Anyhow, I listen to NPR *and* talk radio. I read web sites that affiliate with each side. Back when I subscribed to print news I got two newspapers: one liberal-leaning and one conservative-leaning. I know from all of this that both sides pick-and-choose their "facts" and statistics to buttress their claims. With all of that said, it begs the question: Have you actually, personally, tried to "seek out other opinions" to make up your mind, or are you just another On-bot (yeah, both sides have their cute nicknames) who has their short list of like-minded media/information sources?

Re:Mod Parent Up! (2, Funny)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380530)

Fox news is simply the opposite of CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and ABC news the difference is that liberals have many places to get their propaganda while conservatives have 1 and since 40% of the population consider themselves conservatives to 20% liberal a single network that caters to these beliefs will do much better(see Oberman's ratings).

Re:Mod Parent Up! (1)

AigariusDebian (721386) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381308)

The only two TV channels in the US with any liberal leaning are MSNBC and The Comedy Central. Fox is on the far right in their 'news' hours and extreme far right in their opinion hours. The other networks are pretty much balanced, but annoyingly trusting to both sides - i.e. no fact checking.

That's the outside perspective, btw.

Re:Mod Parent Up! (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381366)

Fox news is simply the opposite of CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and ABC news...

I'm sorry, CNN gave up its title of a news network when they added twitter and facebook to nearly all of their broadcasts.

Re:Mod Parent Up! (1)

iamapizza (1312801) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381728)

And the T-shirts. Don't forget the t-shirts [cnn.com] .

Re:Mod Parent Up! (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31397576)

Fox news is simply the opposite

Haha - and here I thought NEWS was supposed to be what newscasters were supposed to report on. There should be no opposite in real news reporting. There should only be facts.

FWIW I think all those networks you mention are garbage. Newshour with Jim Lehrer is among the only real news I've ever seen. And... truthfully, Al-Jazeera listening post [aljazeera.net] comes pretty damn close too

Re:How appropriate... (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379942)

Mod Parent Up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380186)

Thank you for demonstrating the difference between a well informed opinion and an ignorant one, and the importance of the former in the arena of politics.

Re:How appropriate... (1)

andydread (758754) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380688)

+1

Fitting, so it will match the economy (3, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379760)

That is fitting, so the space program will match the economy the republicans left the current administration.

Re:Fitting, so it will match the economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380306)

Didn't know the republicans ran congress since 2006.....sigh, yet another re-writing of history.

Re:Fitting, so it will match the economy (4, Insightful)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380522)

> That is fitting, so the space program will match the economy the republicans left the current administration.

Dear SmallFurryCreature (593017),

The economy is not the fault of any given administration. The most recent economic crisis was due primarily to the actions of a few people in the NY financial district, and to the failure of the many to realize how broad the consequences would be when that group inevitably failed. It was slightly exacerbated by widely-performed mortgage fraud, but it was really a question of a few guys on wall street who decided to start trading credit-default swaps and the like irresponsibly.

Everyone blames the economy on the administration in power, to the extent where any major event on the market is very likely to determine the outcome of a Presidential Election. This is an irrational reaction on the part of the people, but it occurs anyway. The people in government with the most power for this kind of thing are actually the senators and representatives, but they rarely regulate the banking segment of the economy since it gives them money. Most of a senator's day is raising money. If he has two minutes between events, he's on the phone with donors. If he's sitting in the back of his car as someone drives him to work, he's on the phone with donors. Numerous donors are in finance. Therefore it takes something extraordinary for the government to even consider regulating finance.

Regards,

OxfordCommaLover

Re:Fitting, so it will match the economy (2, Insightful)

jo42 (227475) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380932)

Dear HighlyEducatedIdiot,

The actions "of a few people in the NY financial district" can be traced directly to the deregulation of their industry by a previous administration.

Regards,
SomeoneWithABrain

Re:Fitting, so it will match the economy (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381474)

Echoing another respondent - jo42 -

The economic recession that we're in right now is a combination of people forgetting why regulations were put in place after the Great Depression and people (maybe with good intentions) trying to force legislation for everyone to own property. There were no recessions of this current magnitude since the great depression. This was due in large part to regulations that restricted business from being complete fucking idiots. Beginning in 80s people started thinking, our economy's doing well, screw these regulations, they're outdated. And in the 90s legislation was passed that basically forced banks to give out home loans to everyone. This resulted in people getting home loans for property that far exceeded their means. It's good intentions to want everyone to be able to afford a home, but if you work minimum wage you're not going to get that mansion on hollywood boulevard.

So yes, the economy is the fault of a small group of people, and those people weren't at Wall Street, they were in Congress. Quite frankly, the office of the president doesn't have the power to create this great of a shitstorm.

Re:Fitting, so it will match the economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31381890)

Dear Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530).

you are obviously poorly informed. Perhaps you should read up on what economists say, rather than political pundits and activists. For example Krugman.

In very brief:

1. The deepest foundation of the crisis is that the entirety of the western world has been living on a credit bubble, spending beyond their means and exporting employment to China. This is partly "due to" greater stability leading to reduced risk premiums and more benign statistical models, meaning that borrowing costs fall and people can get loans and many multiples of their salaries. Which again partly is "due to" a lack of extreme stress testing performed by credit ratings agencies as much as by the US government - nobody made any assumptions that both Republicans and Democrats did not jointly and totally fully made. And this follows from a macroeconomic paradigm that you should set interest rates to target inflation at a steady low rate, which was destroyed by the fact that artificially depressed Chinese prices had a large NEGATIVE effect on imported product prices, so that when low interest rates led to a giant POSITIVE effect on asset/mortgage prices, it all looked fine and dandy and averaged out to 1.5%. No reason to raise interest rates in 2003, no siree.

2. The creation of collateralized default obligations was the most extreme form of financial instrument, because they were highly leveraged to a continuous benign environment. Effectively, as long as things stayed stable, they would keep their value and e.g. an AAA-rated instrument have a 0.1% default probability, much like industrial companies with an AAA rating have historically had a 0.1% default probability. The problem was that any minor wobble in the underlying statistical assumptions would wipe out a lot of their value - and overnight, because of continuous pricing. This wobble was when the US raised interest rates.

3. Effectively, this wobble destabilised the markets, and required the bailouts etc. Now, 'too big to fail' is largely wrong - although there were significant linkages between financial institutions that meant that 'if one falls they probably all fall', consider this: The scenario for banks is that, a decline in the assets of banks (i.e. mortgages and people who owe them money suddenly looking less likely to pay up) would threaten to make these assets smaller than the liabilities of banks (i.e. the money people have in banks and what they have borrowed from the market) then the government had to enter to bail them out, and to do that, take up a lot of debt.

Now, firstly, the size of the bailout isn't money the banks have run away with. If the government spends $500bn, that doesn't imply the banks have had profits of $500bn. In the same way that, if a bank gives a loan of $1m and charges a margin of 0.5% between what they borrow at and what they lend at, then if the borrower disappears/goes bust/house value goes to 0, you will not "recover" $1m by looking to take the margin of $50,000. It's physically impossible to create a 'bailout fund' by taxing the profits of banks, because even 100% of those profits wouldn't have been enough. The beneficiaries of the market has been companies and mortage borrowers as much as banks.

Secondly, if there had been 1000 small banks instead of 1 bank, and they HAD failed, then the effect would simply be that people who had money in the bank would have lost their money. The FDIC would have been too small to rescue those 1000 banks (it can barely handle the current banks, and that's excluding the megabanks) and the government would have had to borrow to reimburse the bank depositors. Unless you just say that "Too bad, you have lost your money", which incidentally is company working capital, pension funds and Grandma Bess's retirement savings

Of course, you can say that "without the CDOs, the credit bubble would not have burst, so it's all due to the CDOs". This ignores the problem that the credit bubble would have burst sooner or later, and the housing market exploded by itself, just in a more drawn-out way.

And about 'deregulation of their industry'? Some of the investment banks required bailouts, which have gone a large way to being repaid. None of the hedge funds did. AIG did, and would still have regardless of regulation. Insurance companies did. Proprietary trading played no part in it, and Obama's crusade there is simply based on general principles rather than linked to any past crisis issues.

Re:Fitting, so it will match the economy (1, Interesting)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380578)

So how long until the current administration will be accountable for their actions unemployment has only risen since Obama has been in office.

Re:Fitting, so it will match the economy (3, Insightful)

AigariusDebian (721386) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381332)

Well, the USA was loosing 200k-300k jobs per month when Obama took office and in just over a year he reduced it tenfold. He is no Jesus you know.

Re:Fitting, so it will match the economy (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31383792)

It's not me you need to tell that too

Re:Fitting, so it will match the economy (1)

amightywind (691887) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380598)

Of course Obama has increased NASA's funding, so that they can turn their attention to more important matters, like global warming.

Re:How appropriate... (2, Interesting)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380386)

Well, why not? The US essentially ended the first space race by making multiple landings on the moon. Still an extraordinary achievement, and frankly an amazing one given the technology available at the time. 1969, remember.
Gentlemen, I salute you. (And no, I'm not American...)
What do you do to top that?
It's like gambling; sometimes it's better to get up from the table and keep your winnings.
The shuttle program was - frankly - a disaster, financially but especially and unfortunately in human lives.
Let the Chinese and others waste a fortune trying to do what NASA did, and save the cash for Medicare.

Re:How appropriate... (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381618)

This "tumbleweed" concept is cheap and affordable, may be a little unpredictable in the direction it will go, but will ultimately allow many more vehicles doing a lot more exploration in aggregate.

So yes, this is exactly what will be left of the space program after the administration is done. Sounds like a good thing to me.

Re:How appropriate... (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381776)

"Tumbleweed" is a perfect description of what will be left of the space program after the current administration is done with it!

Thus setting the perfect stage for an old-west style shootout... on Mars!

Re:How appropriate... (2, Insightful)

joggle (594025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31383284)

Actually, you have it backwards. The programs that were cut would have taken virtually all of NASA's budget, making other exploration programs like this nearly impossible to fund.

Is the atmosphere dense enough? (5, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379600)

I'm sure they've thought about this, but is the atmosphere really dense enough to push something carrying any sort of payload around? I think atmospheric pressure is less than 1% of earth's whereas gravity is still 1/2 that of earth's. Will it have a "pump" for slow leaks? Self sealing against punctures?

On the other hand, if it really is light enough and the "fabric" is tough and heat resistant, maybe it can deorbit WITHOUT using a heat shield. Now that would really save a LOT of weight and might make the whole idea worthwhile. I seem to remember there were once emergency escape plans for astronauts that essentially had them envelope themselves in a (very) large foam shield. If you make it light and fluffy enough it might "float" down from space. (Or glide down in the case of the paper(!) airplane that a japanese astronaut at the ISS flew back to earth).

Just curious.

Re:Is the atmosphere dense enough? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31379720)

i saw something about this lately somewhere, cant remember the source. But for sand and rocks that are moved around mars, the winds are too weak, however there are infrequent strong gusts which can move sand around, and once moving, because of the low gravity, only small winds are required to maintain the motion for significant periods of time.

Re:Is the atmosphere dense enough? (4, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379862)

I'm sure they've thought about this, but is the atmosphere really dense enough to push something carrying any sort of payload around? I think atmospheric pressure is less than 1% of earth's whereas gravity is still 1/2 that of earth's.

Gravity is 38% of gravity on Earth. Atmospheric pressure is at most 1% of the pressure on Earth. But the funny thing is that it would be technically possible to land a winged aircraft on Mars. Wing loading would be low and landing speed would be high. Part of the reason is that carbon dioxide is quite a bit denser than nitrogen. So while the pressure is low, the density is not so low.

Re:Is the atmosphere dense enough? (5, Interesting)

bcmm (768152) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379892)

But the funny thing is that it would be technically possible to land a winged aircraft on Mars.

I seem to recall reading something interesting about that several years ago - it claimed that a Martian aircraft would have to look pretty interesting - due to the lower density of the atmosphere and the lower speed of sound, a prop-driven fixed-wing or helicopter would have to break the sound barrier with the tip of its blades, which is a little impractical.

P.S. Found the article: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg17022932.700-flight-of-the-martian-bee.html [newscientist.com]

Re:Is the atmosphere dense enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380480)

Am I right in guessing that bladetips moving > sound would cause more than the usual cavitation / efficiency issues?

What about jet turbines or some other compressed-martian-air / supercharged design? I'm guessing that the volume of the air needed to push an aircraft would be so much higher that the intake would become too heavy.

What does work? Gliders and JATO!?

Re:Is the atmosphere dense enough? (1)

quercus.aeternam (1174283) | more than 4 years ago | (#31383090)

X-Plane supports Mars flight simulations, and has for a while...

http://www.x-plane.com/adventures/mars.html [x-plane.com]
http://www.dreamsenses.com/mars/marsx.html [dreamsenses.com]

I don't know how much effort is required to use it nowadays, but the install cds come with two mars craft:
http://www.x-plane.com/pg_Meet_X-Plane.html [x-plane.com]

Re:Is the atmosphere dense enough? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31383674)

Yeah I was thinking about landing only. I reckon you could land on skids at Meridiani Planum [nasa.gov]

Re:Is the atmosphere dense enough? (1)

Mantis8 (876944) | more than 4 years ago | (#31386034)

This is a brilliant idea. Perhaps the lack of control over the "craft" would at least partially be made up for in the larger numbers of craft. I"m assuming they would be comparatively low cost for each one (due to the budget crunch). At any rate, I think they would be able to get large amounts of valuable data over vast areas of Mars. Maybe they could network them together and compare/combine data over seasons and get some long-term information as well.

Two problems (1)

Aargau (827662) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379610)

One, inability to use feedback to direct it towards interesting phenomena. Even if you can stop it, it doesn't mean you can get close enough to anomalous features on the surface. Two, lack of ability to escape local minima. I don't know how much of a problem this would be on mars, but I just went to death valley in February and saw the rows of tumbleweeds stuck on the fences and in crevices (useful if you plan to sprout and reproduce).

Re:Two problems (3, Interesting)

onion2k (203094) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379658)

In reverse order... The second problem is relatively easy to overcome simply by nature of the tumbleweed rover's size and shape. If it's big enough not to fall between the sorts of rocks on Mars' surface, and it has no protrusions to snag on things, then it won't get stuck.

The first problem is really about the nature of the mission. The idea of a tumbleweed rover is to gather large datasets about large areas, it's not designed to examine small, interesting things. It's rather like saying Google Earth isn't the right tool to see what beetles are living under the rocks in my garden. True, it's not, but neither is it supposed to be.

Re:Two problems (2, Funny)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379868)

Yeah, that's a job for google streetview.

Re:Two problems (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 4 years ago | (#31382832)

I question though what data it could collect that wouldn't be more easily gathered by satellite which could 'cover' thousands of miles in a day at extremely high resolution.

Re:Two problems (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381656)

I just went to death valley in February and saw the rows of tumbleweeds stuck on the fences and in crevices

Compressed air jets may be able to get tumblerovers loose. Because the atmosphere is thin on Mars, such air would pack a punch.

   

Re:Two problems (2, Interesting)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381708)

This would be a terrible way to do a single vehicle. However, they want to 'swarm' these instead. While each individual vehicle may be limited, if you have hundreds canvasing a region, correlating the data between each 'tumbleweed' would make the information more valuable than the mere sum of its parts.

I don't think this replaces something like the MERs, but rather complements them.

Frequently asked question at JPL: (2, Funny)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379646)

"OK guys, where the F*** are we now?"

(due to the huge communication lag between Mars and Earth, rovers are controlled by giving a set of commands, and then checking the result the next day (or next Sol, to be exact))

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (2, Funny)

TheJokeExplainer (1760894) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379676)

(due to the huge communication lag between Mars and Earth, rovers are controlled by giving a set of commands, and then checking the result the next day (or next Sol, to be exact))

Hey! That was my job!

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (2, Funny)

JokeExplainerXplainr (1760998) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379718)

Hey! That was my job!

Parent is, of course, referring to the joke that he is the Joke Explainer and that it is his job to explain jokes.

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31379776)

Epic fail.

Bring back PizzaAnalogyGuy. He was teh funny.

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379928)

On the off-chance you're not just pulling our legs: which rover did you control/which team did you belong to? And why the past tense? Both programs have received a grant for continuation, no?

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (2, Funny)

JokeExplainerXplainr (1760998) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380064)

Whooooooosh!!!

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380082)

I know, I know, I tried to reply with a corrected comment immediately after, but Slashdot wouldn't let me.

Anyhow... well played JokeExplainerXplainer.

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (2, Funny)

TheJokeExplainer (1760894) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380086)

Parent is, of course, referring to the sound the joke made as it went past grandparent's head.

Maybe he just didn't see it.

He is, after all...

The blind biker.

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (2, Funny)

JokeExplainerXplainr (1760998) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380098)

YYEEEAAAHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (2, Informative)

TheJokeExplainer (1760894) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380120)

While the Caruso Method [cracked.com] is widely studied, little is known about the man. Like a grimacing chameleon, Caruso blends in with his surroundings. He is not just the star of a show that takes place in Miami. Caruso is Miami.

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380196)

Go back from whence you came, tard.

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31381444)

What about his sunglasses?

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (2, Informative)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380486)

Maybe he just didn't see it.

He is, after all...

The blind biker.

Well, cut me some slack: I'm at home with a flu, and so is the wife and our 4 month-old baby boy. It's easy to miss some tiny detail from this end of the business.

Anyhow, this thread keeps on giving and is awesome, even if I'm the butt of the joke.

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381506)

Anyhow, this thread keeps on giving and is awesome, even if I'm the butt of the joke.

This is the internet, where you're always the but of some joke.

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380010)

The other frequently asked question will be "what the hell was that?". Like the face on mars, there will be a heap of random rock outcrops and shadows that look really interesting from a certain angle, and unfortunately you can't easily go round for a second look. For that reason alone I think we should do it - a new conspiracy theory could be born every second!

Re:Frequently asked question at JPL: (2, Funny)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380088)

"a new conspiracy theory could be born every second!"

Youtube has got that covered, no need to go to mars.

Footprints? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31379696)

Hey, not that this is some sort of faked moon mission conspiracy theory, but do I see FOOT PRINTS in the before and after photos of the dust build up? Are these earth-born test photos presented as shots from Mars?

Re:Footprints? (2, Informative)

BabyDave (575083) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380178)

Don't be silly, those are obviously the footprints of the Martian gorillas [thesun.co.uk] .

If it's tumbing anyway... (2, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379744)

...then why not add some solar cells and a motor, so it can actually move to where it wants.

It will clean the cells, by tumbling and turning half of them upside-down.

But I don’t know if the wind on Mars is really strong enough for all of this...

Re:If it's tumbing anyway... (1)

Jedi1USA (145452) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380396)

Kind of pointless really. Once it blows into a Martian Barbed wire fence and gets caught the extra maneuverability will be wasted.

Re:If it's tumbing anyway... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380608)

The only thing that blows harder then mars is .... your mama

Re:If it's tumbing anyway... (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381666)

We actually had this idea (I'm a grad student in aerospace engineering) a few years ago, and one guy managed to throw together a small 'roll-bot' that bhas a motor attached to the axis of a spherical shell, and a weight on a servo that hanges below that axis. The motor controls the speed, and you can turn it by moving the weight so it causes the wheel to tilt. Works pretty well, and would be good for a planetary probe because its completely sealed, so if you have a way to clean the surface you wouldn't have to worry about internal wear.

OMG! It's the attack of the killer tomatoes! (1)

forebees (1641541) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379890)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080391/ [imdb.com]

I can see any intelligent Martian life running for the hills :)

I wonder if they scared the crap out of anyone in Greenland

LOL

A slight design flaw (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31379934)

Day one the tumble weed rover heroically rolls across the Martian terrain. Day two the rover discoveries a previously unknown Martian crater. Day three examines bottom of crater, day four same, day five same, ..., day 365 rover celibrates it's first year on Mars from the bottom of it's newly discovered crater.

More Investment and Ideas Needed (1)

robbyyy (703254) | more than 4 years ago | (#31379946)

This sounds like an intersting idea in principal. I do think that we need to kickstart the whole human exploration effort. Scientific advancement in this area seems to be slipping.

Wouldn't they all end up in pits? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380134)

Kinda like ET on the 2600?

We demand bouncing - (3, Funny)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380198)

We demand bouncing, followed by rolling, followed by rolling of the third type.

Re:We demand bouncing - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31383568)

These balls are making me testy!!!

From Tumbleweed Mission Control (1)

Attila the Bun (952109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380220)

"That's an interesting rock, let's look a bit more closely... woah, no time for that, we're off again."
"It sure is windy today. I feel a little seasick."
"Was that a pair of eyes we just went past?"
[sometime later after a change in the weather]
"The forecast is calm for the next month. Has anybody got any great ideas for studying this patch of sand we're stuck on?"

You know what 's better than a tumbleweed? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380432)

A guy walking around on the Martian surface.

Re: You know what 's better than a tumbleweed? (1)

sky289hawk1 (459600) | more than 4 years ago | (#31383050)

Yeah, because THAT doesn't have any complications, and is very easy to design and work around.

Rover? (2)

schmidt349 (690948) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380482)

Doesn't the Tumbleweed prototype in this photo [discovery.com] look suspiciously like a certain Number 6-devouring border guard? What are these scientists really planning?

Re:Rover? (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380574)

I have no worries, I've got my plastic fork! [youtube.com]

Re:Rover? (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 4 years ago | (#31382134)

What are these scientists really planning?

Behold the nightmarish future [youtube.com]

Location Data? (1)

rdmiller3 (29465) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380588)

Location data could be difficult. There's no GPS on Mars. The cheapest solution would be to give the Tumbleweeds an omnidirectional beacon strobe. Then it could be spotted from orbit when it's on the night side. Accurate location info would be easiest to get just after dusk and before dawn because landmarks on the day side would be visible to the satellite.

Re:Location Data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31380794)

You track it the same way you track any other spacecraft. You measure the distance to it very accurately (a few mm), from several locations on Earth (or the same location as Earth rotates), then do multilateration (e.g. just like GPS, solve a bunch of simultaneous equations). Distance measuring is done with radio signals in either X-band (7-8 GHz) or Ka-band (32-34 GHz). Having big antennas on Earth and hydrogen masers helps.

Ballons (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#31380784)

I would prefer a couple of balloons to float around with small amounts of equipment: weather info; Camera below: magnetic sensor: radiation detector on top. That would give a lot of information on places to look at. In addition, the camera would be able to see much closer than could the sats, though it would not be controllable in terms of where to fly. But at this time, it is useful to get a closer look at the planet via serin dipity.

Re:Ballons (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31382962)

The trouble is that Mars has an average atmospheric pressure of 0.6 kPa as opposed to Earth's 101.3 kPa. The reduced gravity will affect both lift of the balloon and the weight of the probe hanging below it so that cancels out. If we assume a hydrogen balloon though, the lift should be about 3x as large as on Earth based on gas density. My guesstimate is you need a balloon 70 times larger than on Earth to get the same lift. The balloon would have to be extremely thin and light and survive huge temperature changes without tearing and the probe would have to either produce the hydrogen or bring it all the way to Mars. Sounds doable but certainly not easy.

Re:Ballons (1)

RoboRay (735839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31385000)

If we can manage to make parachutes and aerobraking work in the thin Martian atmosphere, I'm sure we can manage balloons. There have been some serious studies into sending balloon probes to Mars, I think by the ESA in particular.

New System? (2, Interesting)

Nethead (1563) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381042)

So we need a new system because the current rover design failed so catastrophically? /snark

We have an outstanding current rover design and I'm sure that there are many small tweaks NASA would love to include in a Ver. 2. Let's just send a few more siblings of Spirit and Opportunity up to new areas. Maybe one (ok, two) designed to go pin god-damn medals on Spirit & Oppy. Let's build upon success.

Re:New System? (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381552)

I agree with you that the rover missions went beyond expectations by such a huge degree that we should be doing repeated missions (some tweaks to improve a few of the challenges experienced by the rovers). The goal of the rover missions is not the same as the goal of this tumbleweed mission. The former is to get detailed information on a small scale. The tumbleweeds might be able to traverse significant percentages of the planet to provide information on where to send the next pair of rovers.

Billions and Billions ... (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381268)

That's how many it will take to dominate Mars.

The first billion will fill in the craters and other depressions.

The second billion will be able to roll freely on the resulting flat surface.

I'm sure they didn't think of this. (1)

carpefishus (1515573) | more than 4 years ago | (#31381384)

The damn thing is just going to get caught in a barbed wire fence.

Holes, ditches, ridges? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31381510)

What happens when this thing roles down a valley or falls in a deep crater or some ditch. Wind isn't going to be able to blow it anywhere after that. It's much easier for a tumbleweed to go on a flat surface or down hill, but once it goes to an area where the relative sea level is low it's done exploring.

Bad for photos, good for weather (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 4 years ago | (#31382458)

A tumbleweed rover, would stand still, at some odd angle for weeks between storms, then get blown so fast, all the picture would have motion blur, (unless they put a very fast camera in it). But it would be great for weather sensing because it would detect every gust of wind.

---

Solar System [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Venus dominates Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31383122)

One lick of the balls and Mars rolls over like a pussycat.

One kick in the balls and Mars rolls over like a screaming, jibbering pussycat

absolutely true! (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 4 years ago | (#31383434)

I am definitely vying for some serious funding. CAN HAZ MRZ PLZ?

Roving hoards of tumbleweeds on a Martian 'net ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31383940)

Some initial thoughts, ideas, and cogitations on this concept if you don't mind ....
Regarding the potential puncturability of the enclosure, it doesn't need to inflate if it's on a spring-loaded frame. It's really just there as a sail.
Perhaps also, the material of the enclosure could potentially BE the solar array and double as power-source for the data package. (???)
If the data package, i.e. power, sensors, recorders, and transmitters, could be made small and light enough, they could just mount it in a light-weight spring loaded bucky-ball frame, say of carbon fiber or something, with a skin of 'some sort' ;P for a sail as i said. It would just be a matter of making enough sail surface area that the winds on Mars could provide enough force to push around the given weight of the craft; so obviously lighter is better. But, the winds on Mars CAN get pretty gusty, as we've seen as per the dust storms and clear duning action.
Also, I could see sending multiple tumbleweeds per mission, and de-orbiting them such that they come down in separate regions. Given a spring-loaded frame, the individual tumbleweeds could be packed most efficiently into a very small package. Perhaps enough to fit three or so per single-rocket launch, saving money AND orbital coincidentality.
Each would need a small heat-sheild for initially braking orbital speed (most weight?), but once lower in the atmosphere, they could deploy a small parachute for the primary , and 'pop-open' to assist with drag, then 'bounce in' as we've done with other landers; only the spring loaded frame acts as the landing cushion.
Now, if we land stationary reciever/transmitter stations at several locations around Mars, each tumbleweed would only have to provide enough broadcast strength to burst-transmit to the nearest 'base-station', plus storage capacity to store data until the next opportunity to do so. Each base-station would transmit ITS stored data to one or more satellites which would in turn transmit the data back to Earth. Maybe we could even re-program certain satellites we ALREADY have in orbit to accept data from these base stations.
The number of satellites need not be many (the most expensive part of the equation I'd think), as the base stations AND tumbleweeds could easily have enough storage capacity given current memory technologies -- even flash-RAM ala USB memory sticks so the tumbleweeds for instance could go into power-saving modes without loss of recorded data; energy efficiency on the tumbleweeds themselves would be paramount.
Imagine it. A multitude of independently randomly roving tumbleweeds, blowing about and storing data until they got close enough to a base station to burst their observations to, with the base stations hooked into our orbital network of satellites. ... ahhhhh ....
That's all from me for now, thanks for listening ... ;D

Yea right... (1)

nataflux (1733716) | more than 4 years ago | (#31385026)

And then the tumbleweed gets stuck in a hole and there goes the millions of dollars spent to send it there.

Mars Trash Vortex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31393512)

Isn't there a danger that all the tumbleweed rovers will end up in the same crater/rift or valley ?
Somewhat like the refuse that ends up in the Pacific Trash Vortex ?

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