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Mars Rover Opportunity Set To Roll Into Its Ultimate Crater

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the opportunity-knocks-on-endeavour's-door dept.

Mars 48

coondoggie writes "NASA's Mars rover Opportunity will likely peer over the rim of its ultimate destination this week, the huge Endeavour crater. According to a NASA post late last week, Opportunity was only about 120 meters from 'Spirit Point,' the first landfall on the rim of Endeavour crater."

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NoooooOooo! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37025610)

Oh, No! can't someone stop it! aaaarrrggghhhh!
oh wait... it was planned? OK, nevermind.

Late-breaking news from the Council! (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 3 years ago | (#37025774)

K'breel, speaker for the Council, emphasized that preparations for the final battle were complete.

"Citizens, the last of the two mechanical invaders that first touched down on our red soil, has reached its ultimate destination. Intelligence reports from the blue world confirm that the alien fiend will likely peer over the rim of its ultimate destination this week, the huge End-Devaur crater."

K'Breel confirmed that the source of this intelligence leak was a communications node of the blue world's so-called "Planetary Society" [planetary.org] has been neutralized. Its data flows as sluggishly as the brine that oozes forth from beneath the summer soil. Soon, the invading force whose activities it purports to document, shall be neutralized along with it! ONWARD TO VICTORY!

When a junior reporter speculated that the reason for the temporary downtime of the communications node might be related to a surge of network traffic from blue-worlders whose only interest was peaceful exploration, K'Breel had the junior reporter's gelsacs effectively slashed .

Re:Late-breaking news from the Council! (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#37026144)

Thank you. We always hunger for the words of the mighty K'Breel!!!!

Re:Late-breaking news from the Council! (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 3 years ago | (#37029448)

I must have missed the memo, who is K'Breel? Google provides many amusing links, none of theme explanatory though :-)

Re:Late-breaking news from the Council! (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#37029490)

Did you even read the GP?

For years, whenever there's a Mars story, Tackhead has been posting these updates from the Council on Mars, ruled by K'Breel.

Re:Late-breaking news from the Council! (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 3 years ago | (#37029546)

I read it, but my perfunctory google search showed me numerous authors. Thanks for the corrective clue stick.

Re:Late-breaking news from the Council! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37113122)

For the record, while I'm honored to have taken up his mantle, I can't take credit for the idea - I'm just filling in for the original TripMaster Monkey [slashdot.org] , who started it back in/around 2005 [slashdot.org] .

Don't be sad, be glad! (3, Insightful)

graveyhead (210996) | more than 3 years ago | (#37025792)

Well, our spirit is gone but at least we've got some opportunity left! :-)

O NO (-1, Redundant)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 3 years ago | (#37025834)

IT'S A TRAP!!!

Glad to hear (-1, Flamebait)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37025838)

You geniuses at NASA gave this one more than 3CM of ground clearance so it didn't get stuck on a rock

Re:Glad to hear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37025898)

Snakes get over rocks with no ground clearance.

If they did, of course, you'd be complaining how the dummys made it too top-heavy, that's why it fell over.

Because you're a seasoned expert, who's landed probably dozens of ROV's on other planets.

Re:Glad to hear (-1, Troll)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37025916)

you don't have to be an expert to come to the conclusion that a planet with no vegetation is going to be rocky

Re:Glad to hear (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 3 years ago | (#37025966)

A few gaseous, gigantic planets may render your conclusion invalid.

Re:Glad to hear (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#37026226)

But enough about CowboyNeal....

Re:Glad to hear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37025980)

Right. Because planets that aren't rocky have lots of vegetation. Because plants eat rocks.

Re:Glad to hear (1)

BlindRobin (768267) | more than 3 years ago | (#37028566)

You don't get it.

Translation (1, Flamebait)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#37025876)

We just finished building the Endeavor crater movie set in Area 51 for all you gullible suckers to ooh and aaah at. NASA, you haven't fooled ME!

Re:Translation (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041146)

I guess it wasn't obvious I was joking.

Why the ultimate crater? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37025886)

Keep it going as long as possible. If it can still go explore something else, that must be done. After paying for the development, launch and all, it would be a pity to abandon the mission before Opportunity actually becomes kaput.

Re:Why the ultimate crater? (0)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37025948)

then the politicians wont have extra pork for their state contractors

Re:Why the ultimate crater? (4, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 3 years ago | (#37026104)

The crater is steep. It will be extremely difficult to get Opportunity out of the crater after it goes in. And there's a massive amount of interesting stuff in the crater to look at. Opportunity also has some functional difficulties (although it has so far been much more functioning than its sister Rover spirit). It is likely that the rover will break before we run out of interesting stuff to look at in the crater.

A Missed Chance for NASA Fundraising... (0)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#37025958)

They should have licensed the rover to Burger King; we could be instead be seeing a Whopper-tunity rising over the crater (likely pulling The King on a snowboard or some such thing) and claiming Mars for the right to Have It Your Way.

Re:A Missed Chance for NASA Fundraising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37026400)

They should have licensed the rover to Burger King; we could be instead be seeing a Whopper-tunity rising over the crater (likely pulling The King on a snowboard or some such thing) and claiming Mars for the right to Have It Your Way.

this is an awesome idea!

Re:A Missed Chance for NASA Fundraising... (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#37032346)

no, it really is not

Long road trip (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#37026248)

According to the wiki page Opportunity has been on this road trip since aug 2008... Thats a good 3 years now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endeavour_(crater) [wikipedia.org]

NASA hates successful designs (4, Interesting)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 3 years ago | (#37026410)

Otherwise, they'd keep building them.

Those rovers are easily the most successful probes on a planetary surface ever. And this has been clear for years now. When you do something that turns out to be wildly successful, the most reasonable reaction that people have is to do it again. But not NASA. NASA could have build, launched and operated at least ten or twenty duplicates of Spirit and Opportunity for the price of its current "Curiosity" rover (some $2,300,000,000) that may or may not work.

What happened to the good old scientific practice of repeating your measurements and assuring your hypothesis? NASA could have spread new landing sites all over Mars and could even have gone so far as trading the risk of losing a few rovers to unfavorable terrain for the chance to do exploration of scientifically more interesting landing sites, that are more than flat deserts with the occasional crater.

Quantity is a quality all of its own that you must not underestimate.

Re:NASA hates successful designs (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 3 years ago | (#37026708)

Right! Instead of doing new experiments, scientists should just do the same thing over and over and over. They can save a lot of money that way!

Science: doing the same thing over and over again (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 3 years ago | (#37026858)

Your romantic Hollywood picture of science notwithstanding, science is for the most part about doing the same things over and over again under only slightly differing circumstances. It may not be spectacular. - But imaging what we would know if all of earths geology came from two surveys conducted somewhere in the North German plains and the US middle west prairie. Right: nothing much.

Re:Science: doing the same thing over and over aga (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 3 years ago | (#37027040)

Oh totally! That is an excellent comparison, since basically everything we know about Martian geology comes from the Opportunity and the Spirit! They have been the backbone that has given mankind untold amounts of information about the planet! They were in no way kept operating mostly because they gave NASA good publicity! NASA never planned to take them offline but reneged because of a furor given by non-scientists! I'm not being sarcastic, I just can't help ending my sentences with exclamation points!

Re:Science: doing the same thing over and over aga (1)

adri (173121) | more than 3 years ago | (#37029046)

But it does beg the question - once you've got a working design and engineering, operations, management, etc teams with lots of experience, does the total cost per mission drop when you start doing it in bulk?

Ie, once you've got a better idea of the mission lifespan, and yes assuming that the "getting it to mars" costs aren't coming down soon(ish), why not run 10 of them in parallel, on an "average" 5 year lifespan for each?

I'm sure there's something obvious missing from this, so someone please fill me in. Facts/figures please.

Re:Science: doing the same thing over and over aga (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#37098604)

Or run 1,000 of them on the lunar surface (a lot closer, a lot cheaper), charging people to operate them along their designated mission profiles.

It could be like a big online game, with a leaderboard, credits for school, etc. Self-supporting, it would not only explore a lot of the lunar surface, but give preparation for repeating the whole thing with Mars a few years later.

Re:NASA hates successful designs (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#37026894)

Like going to the Moon again to check out different things.. Oh wait, it was the Apollo Program. There is no reason they couldn't save costs and send the same design to different parts of Mars to explore the various locales.

Re:NASA hates successful designs (2)

RollingThunder (88952) | more than 3 years ago | (#37026920)

Mars is huge, compared to what the rovers are covering.

They could put a hundred identical rovers up there, and they'd all be finding different things, and the project would get some cost savings on the design side.

Of course, the main cost isn't in the design side, but in the heavy lift and ongoing operations.

Re:NASA hates successful designs (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 3 years ago | (#37027180)

Quite the contrary. Getting stuff to Mars is cheap - about 10% of the project cost in those NASA projects. Ongoing operations are on a similar order of magnitude. Design is the most important part of the cost, hardware cost is quite neglible.

This is quite unlike the japanese JAXA - where launch costs can make up 50% of the mission. But the Japanese, too, only send single missions and pay for it by having unreliable hardware (although part of this may be, because their missions tends to be technologically more ambitious than NASA - despite the low budgets).

Re:NASA hates successful designs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37029916)

JAXA missions are ambitious BECAUSE they have low budgets. They don't have the money to do things safely--namely, test out new technology over multiple missions--so they have to put multiple new technologies on a single vessel (and compound risks of failure) in order to have state of art designs.

The Hayabusa asteroid probe, for example, was first and foremost an engineering testbed for ion engines, but also of spacebound lithium-ion batteries, autonomous control of a space probe to orbit around an asteroid, release of a sub-probe to land on said asteroid, autonomous touchdown on said asteroid, sample recovery from said asteroid, AND return of the sample to Earth. Not surprisingly, so many things failed on Hayabusa that it's literally a miracle that the probe actually managed to finish most of the missions. Not to take anything away from JAXA's Herculean efforts, but relying on miracles is not sound engineering.

Re:NASA hates successful designs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37027384)

There's not a lot of other spots to send these rovers, but there are a lot of interesting places to go.

Mercury is both too hot and too cold depending on exact position.
Venus is too hot and has a corrosive atmosphere.
Asteroids are too rough.
The Jovian system has too much radiation (maybe a good quantity of antimatter too).
We've already been to our moon (although it'd allow for near real-time experimentation).
Most other moons are too far away to use solar power.
Titan is too cold, but *very* interesting due to its hydrocarbons and thick atmosphere.
Wind speeds on Neptune exceed 1300 mph.

Over sixty moons exist in our solar system.
A few people have walked on one.

Re:NASA hates successful designs (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#37028964)

It's the same as Firefox developers. They don't want to make a solid product, they want to make something new. Why? Because it's fun. Screw what the rest of us think.

One "Aw, shit!" wipes out twenty "Atta boys!" (1)

rocket rancher (447670) | more than 3 years ago | (#37029376)

I think you are minimizing the impact of even one failed mission. In a government funding environment where even the military budget and Social Security are no longer sacrosanct, you can't afford any negative publicity when you are going hat in hand to your funders. The thinking public understands the risk, but thinking people don't control the purse strings -- politicians do.

Re:NASA hates successful designs (1)

tokul (682258) | more than 3 years ago | (#37029864)

Otherwise, they'd keep building them.

And don't advance any further. How many times you do same stuff without getting bored.

They don't need 1000 rovers and 1000 pieces of space junk on Mars. Goal was to put two pieces of scientific equipment on Mars, make sure that it survives for 90 days and get some research data from there.

What happened to the good old scientific practice of repeating your measurements and assuring your hypothesis?

Budget cuts

Re:NASA hates successful designs (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 3 years ago | (#37031642)

Then I've got a grand idea for Ferrari. Stop building cars, only build prototypes - because only prototypes are any advance at all and who cares about actually driving a car? Once a prototype is finished it shouldn't be allowed to build another of that kind to maximize advancement in automobiles. I'm sure like that Ferrari would have been long past the flying car by now. (Not.)

Re:NASA hates successful designs (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#37034616)

Those rovers are easily the most successful probes on a planetary surface ever. And this has been clear for years now. When you do something that turns out to be wildly successful, the most reasonable reaction that people have is to do it again.

The most reasonable reaction is to do it again, only if you want to do the same thing again. Otherwise, not so much.
 

But not NASA. NASA could have build, launched and operated at least ten or twenty duplicates of Spirit and Opportunity for the price of its current "Curiosity" rover (some $2,300,000,000) that may or may not work.

And what's the point of doing what you've done ten or twenty times more, when it won't accomplish what you want to do? If I want to climb Everest, I don't climb the hill at the end of my street ten or twenty times and then claim I've accomplished the equivalent. (If I did, everyone would, quite rightly, laugh at me.) Yet, that's what you propose to do by repeating the MER rovers.
 
Not to mention that nobody was sure the airbags would work beforehand either - the MER landers were much heavier than the Pathfinder lander, right at the bleeding edge of what the airbags were/are capable of in fact.
 

What happened to the good old scientific practice of repeating your measurements and assuring your hypothesis?

What happened to the good old scientific practice of building on your results?
 
The landing system of the MER rovers is extremely limited, and can only reach a very small portion of the Martian surface with a very small payload. The science suite is equally extremely limited in that it's designed to answer only a small number of questions. You could launch a whole fleet of them and get an avalanche of data, but after spending those billions you'd still come face to face with the same problem - they can neither accomplish the science nor reach the landing sites Curiosity can. (In fact, the most interesting scientific sites are in the high latitudes and at higher altitudes - neither of which the MER landing system can reach.)

Re:NASA hates successful designs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37082582)

Naw the poster is right. Clones of the MER rovers make a lot more sense but clones with enhanced instrument packages. There are a lot of lessons leaned by the MERs that could be used to make enhanced MERs.

One thing that has alway bothered me about the MERs and even MSL is the poor design of the wheels. Anyone who has driven on a beach know that large soft smooth tires are the way to go but this is the exact opposite of the MER and even MSL wheels. It cost Spirit its life and almost finished off Opportunities but the same design (albeit in a larger scale) is on MSL.

successor Curiosity arrives on Mars in August 2012 (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#37026450)

Opportunity will get JPL on its toes until then.

Last words (2)

MagicM (85041) | more than 3 years ago | (#37026454)

Opportunity's last transmission:

Wheeeeeeeee!!!

The US gov to roll something into a crater? (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#37027128)

The US government is going to roll something into a crater? Is this Slashdot or the finance pages?

best joke on /. (2)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37027178)

I still remember the best joke seen on /. [slashdot.org] back when there was a software problem reported on Spirit during the flight to Mars, there was some issue related to flash memory, so that's what comes to mind every time: The Spirit is willing but the flash is weak :)

Re:best joke on /. (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 3 years ago | (#37030182)

No, the best joke on /. was when Spirit got stuck in the sand trap and someone suggested that it's designation be changed from Rover to Spot.

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