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NASA: New Mars Rover By 2020

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the but-i-want-it-now dept.

Mars 79

coondoggie writes "Looking to build on the great success and popularity of its current Mars Science Laboratory mission, NASA today announced plans to explore the red planet further, including launching another sophisticated robot rover by 2020 and widely expanding other Mars scientific projects. The plan to design and build a new Mars robotic science rover — which will mirror the technology employed with the current Curiosity rover — will advance the science priorities of the National Research Council's 2011 Planetary Science Decadal Survey (the report from the community and team of scientists that help NASA prioritize space missions) and further the research needed to send humans to the planet sometime around 2030, NASA said."

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79 comments

In other words... NASA (and Uncle sam) says... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42188601)

FUCK YOU~~~~ taxpayers

Your friendly local lizard person.

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42188805)

The biggest Government expenses are Medicare and the interest on the current debt - a lot of that debt is because of two very expensive useless wars. We could eliminate NASA completely and it would have a negligible effect on the US budget.

Then there's the social costs which Neil DeGrasse Tyson has explained better than I ever could.

Yeah, yeah yeah - Taxed Enough Already - blah blah blah. And I'm a tax and spend dreamer who still remembers when we, the US, sent people to the Moon and little kids wanted to be astronauts and not stupid things like: Wall Street parasites, ball players, hip hop stars or some other type of entertainer.

Re:Penny Wise and Pound Foolish (1)

Herve5 (879674) | about a year ago | (#42190673)

Your last sentence really hit me. Too bad you're AC.

Indeed, left and right alike, US and Europe alike, nowadays I find our governments have a terrible trend to consider any job equivalent to any other one.

Just hours ago here in Europe the French gov.t considers renouncing taxing Amazon.com, because OK they overtly cheat on offshored benefits, but in compensation they promiss "creating hundreds of jobs" by... relocating here a dispatch centre.

France destiny is now in parcel dispatching, and certainly the disemployment will disappear very soon due to this. Due to this, our country capability to get helpful for you will certainly increase.

To borrow your expression: Yeah, yeah yeah...

Re:Penny Wise and Pound Foolish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42192269)

The problem is that many of NASA's plans are shortsighted and wasteful, which is what happens when they have to deal with directives from Congress, and why I am much more supportive of the various private programs starting up. The Space Shuttle program, for instance, was a 30 year dead end waste of money. Sure, we got some science from it, but are we as far into space as we were before the Space Shuttles? No. In fact we've regressed. We would have been much better off ignoring Congress and continuing to build exploratory vehicles rather than taxis to low orbit.

Re:Penny Wise and Pound Foolish (1)

Macrat (638047) | about a year ago | (#42198129)

Sure, we got some science from it, but are we as far into space as we were before the Space Shuttles? No. In fact we've regressed. We would have been much better off ignoring Congress and continuing to build exploratory vehicles rather than taxis to low orbit.

Part of the problem was that the Air Force got to define too many requirements that ended up bloating the shuttle design and then the Air Force decided to continue using expendable launchers instead.

Re:In other words... NASA (and Uncle sam) says... (3, Informative)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#42188853)

You realize that NASA has averaged only about $18b/yr for the last 56 years -- in current dollars, right? In more than half a century, they haven't even crossed the trillion dollar mark -- a thing we've done with the "war on terror" many times over. It accounts for something like 0.008% of the budget. While I'm all for needless small things getting cut (and big ones), the return on the trivial amount spent is massive and responsible for much of our economic and technological advancement of the last forty years.

Re:In other words... NASA (and Uncle sam) says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42188925)

Hehe, yeah I used really poor language to try and communicate. I essentially agree with you both. We should be spending more and doing more missions on space related stuff.

What I meant to say we are being fucked because our congress critters and aerospace, defense, communications corporations are using NASA as a front organization. We are not getting what we payed for, and arent paying for what we need because we are not allowed to.

Essentially its like this. "You may, if we permit, you to have another rover of limited scope in 20 years, thanks for your invoulentary donations, everyone things this is great, don't argue with us, be glad we let you have what you have".

Re:In other words... NASA (and Uncle sam) says... (1)

jdray (645332) | about a year ago | (#42193143)

Just to clarify, 2020 is only eight years from now.

Re:In other words... NASA (and Uncle sam) says... (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#42190597)

a thing we've done with the "war on terror" many times over.

And don't forget the Quixhotic war on drugs too. Scrapping that would have a double whammy improvement. Not only would about $40bn/year be saved in police and prison costs but also probably $10-20bn woulb be raised in additional taxes.

Scrapping the war on drugs would probably pay for NASA 3 times over and might go someway to moving the USA from the world #1 position in terms of number of incarcerated people.

Re:In other words... NASA (and Uncle sam) says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42191127)

I was always under the impression that the war on drugs was so popular due to the fact that it was largely self funding. Each time a local PD confiscates an Escalade full of drugs, money, and guns they just funded an extra man year in their department for the war on drugs.

Economies of scale (4, Interesting)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#42188661)

Wouldn't it be more cost effective if they launched multiple vehicles at at time instead of just one? Perhaps NASA could work with other nations by building more rovers and letting them launch their own. If it's going to be in the name of science, why not?

Re:Economies of scale (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#42188717)

You've been watching too much Contact. "Why build one when you can overinflated the cost and build 2?" lol.

Re:Economies of scale (2)

FleaPlus (6935) | about a year ago | (#42189293)

I really hate when people take that "Why build one when you can build two for twice the price" quote from the film adaptation of Contact and try to be clever by quoting it as if it had any bearing on reality. In the real world, the per-unit cost of building multiples of the same thing in parallel costs considerably less than building a one-off.

Re:Economies of scale (0)

asylumx (881307) | about a year ago | (#42190093)

That's much less true when the two things you are building are highly specialized equipment. It's not like there's a mars-rover assembly plant sitting in FL somewhere -- these things are hand-made in detail by highly paid scientists and engineers.

Re:Economies of scale (2)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#42191505)

No, it's not. Those highly specialized pieces of equipment have high development costs. Making just two of them means you have half the development cost per unit.

Re:Economies of scale (1)

Unnngh! (731758) | about a year ago | (#42191917)

They did exactly this with Spirit and Opportunity, although I have no idea if there were any cost savings. Clearly, it is possible, and those were both successful far beyond the original mandates of the mission.

Re:Economies of scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42188819)

Figure out how to fund that and I'm sure they'd be happy to.

I can't help but hear plans like this and think, "yeah great, way to aim high." So much for ever seeing human beings walking around on another planet in my lifetime. I guess Elon Musk is our last and only hope.

Re:Economies of scale (4, Insightful)

physicsphairy (720718) | about a year ago | (#42188913)

It's more cost effective if they make it to their destination. Keep in mind we are still at the "will it explode?" and "if it doesn't explode, will it avoid crashing?" and "if it doesn't crash, will it keep working?" part of the technology. So if the Mars rover works out, that's great, and in fact is a valuable enough confirmation to justify trying to do something similar again.

But it's really better right now to have each rover be a stepping stone to the next. The sort of answers Curiosity gives us will tell us the sort of questions we want to design the next rover to resolve.

Recycle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42189519)

"if it doesn't crash, will it keep working?"

How about they design and send to Mars a robot specifically made to repair crashed robots already there [wikipedia.org], or to scavenge them for parts (sensors, moving parts, PV cells) to mount on others?

Re:Recycle (1)

jdray (645332) | about a year ago | (#42193197)

And how far apart are those existing vehicles? What's between them? How hard is the terrain to navigate? Are the components of one system compatible with another? It's cheaper and much more viable to just send fresh units, targeted for specific purposes and specific locations.

Re:Economies of scale (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42189741)

It's more cost effective if they make it to their destination. Keep in mind we are still at the "will it explode?" and "if it doesn't explode, will it avoid crashing?" and "if it doesn't crash, will it keep working?"

Look at the track record. [thethinkerblog.com]

Its not half as bad as you make it out to be.

All those that end in a Black Dot are failures.
Anything ending in a gray dot was meant to be a Orbiter.
Those with white dots are landers.

The success rate is getting better, (and the lines are getting blue-er.) Since 2000, almost every launch has succeeded.

Re:Economies of scale (1)

necro81 (917438) | about a year ago | (#42192103)

That's a really neat infographic. It stands to be updated, however. Phobos-Grunt was a total failure - didn't even leave Earth orbit. Mars Curiosity has successfully landed, but it's technically too soon to see if the mission is a success (two years operating on the surface is a mission success criteria). MAVEN looks likely to launch next year, but ExoMars (2016) may or may not make it off the ground.

Re:Economies of scale (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#42191285)

It's more cost effective if they make it to their destination. Keep in mind we are still at the "will it explode?" and "if it doesn't explode, will it avoid crashing?" and "if it doesn't crash, will it keep working?" part of the technology. So if the Mars rover works out, that's great, and in fact is a valuable enough confirmation to justify trying to do something similar again.

An observation which supports the original posters observations about economies of scale. A second MSL mission would have far less program risk than a new design precisely because these issues have been worked on.

It's also worth noting that NASA really is launching a second MSL here. They're reusing the chassis, landing system, etc. They're being forced by budget cuts to use these economies of scale which they have repeatedly ignored in the past.

But it's really better right now to have each rover be a stepping stone to the next. The sort of answers Curiosity gives us will tell us the sort of questions we want to design the next rover to resolve.

Please keep in mind that people don't live forever. As it stands, there will be a nine year delay between the first MSL and the following mission using that platform. That's something like 20-25% of a research scientists' professional lifetime.

They could have already built a second MSL for launch during the 2014 window. They could have built a number of MERs for the cost of the MSL mission and had those on the ground by 2008. The glacially slow, "stepping stone" approach means that a considerable amount of Earth-side talent is being grossly underused.

Re:Economies of scale or Speed? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42189403)

Wouldn't it be more cost effective if they launched multiple vehicles at at time instead of just one? Perhaps NASA could work with other nations by building more rovers and letting them launch their own. If it's going to be in the name of science, why not?

With all the self driving technology we have now, (and will have by 2020), why not make it faster, and give it a capability to cover 20 or 50 miles a day or some such.

The rovers we've sent really don't have the capability out of sight of their landing zone. That makes picking landing sites a huge challenge.

With a slightly taller vehicle with a wider stance (bigger wheels) you could probably cover most of the martian terrain at substantial speed, totally autonomously.
It could map as it went, and pick up soils samples and process them on the run, or pause to do so.

Re:Economies of scale (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#42190145)

TFA talks about paving the way to a future manned mission so I assume that the capability of sending big and massive things to Mars has is a goal in itself.

Re:Economies of scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42191235)

That's the normal procedure, isn't it? The rover piggybacks on an orbital science mission which (as a bonus) acts as a high-bandwidth communications relay.

Re:Economies of scale (1)

thrich81 (1357561) | about a year ago | (#42192715)

They used to do that a lot. Mariner 3 and 4 to Mars in 1965 -- Mariner 3 failed but Mariner 4 was a success. Mariner 6 and 7 to Mars in 1969 -- both successes. Mariner 8 and 9 to Mars in 1971 -- Mariner 8 failed, Mariner 9 succeeded. Pioneer 10 and 11 to Jupiter. Voyager 1 and 2. Viking 1 and 2. It used to be almost standard procedure and saved a few missions where one of the pair failed, usually on launch. Cassini to Saturn was supposed to have a fraternal twin on a comet/asteroid mission, CRAF, but CRAF was cancelled to save money. Lately they don't do it, to save a few bucks and maybe justify it by saying the launch vehicles are more reliable.

Additonal Functions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42188775)

The new rover will also have additional functions over the Curiosity rover. It will, for example, be able to project a high-powered laser beam in order to carve the words "FIRST POST!" into the Martian surface.

Look as much as I like Mars (4, Interesting)

Dyinobal (1427207) | about a year ago | (#42188801)

Mars is nice guys but lets go a place a little more interesting with our unmanned probes, like one of the interesting moons around our solar systems Gas giants.

Lets send a manned mission to Mars, and send our robots places that have a higher chance of yielding some really interesting data. Data that even use armchair geeks can get excited about.

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (1)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#42188865)

I expect more remote control toys to Mars, nothing to any other planet, and no men to anywhere (except maybe back to the moon) for the rest of my life time. As a country, the US stopped giving a shit a very long time ago.

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42188965)

oops

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (5, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#42189221)

As a country, the US stopped giving a shit a very long time ago.

The U.S. general public has never cared about space exploration; the public has only cared about beating someone else. Want to get a team of U.S. astronauts on Mars by 2019? Convince the Chinese government to announce to the world that they intend to land humans on Mars by 2020.

I guarantee you that if the Chinese said they planned to establish permanent settlements on Mars in ten years, the U.S. government would move Heaven and Earth to get us there sooner, and they would succeed. Getting to Mars is easy. Convincing the bureaucrats that it is more important than building their little war machines to blow up countries with oil is hard.

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (1)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#42189313)

That's an excellent point. It works for getting us into military actions overseas and would definitely work for space exploration.

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42191289)

Actually, China's goal is 2040-2060. Still close enough to get people motivated, especially if China's going to actually follow through on its extensive moon program.

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (3, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#42189045)

The problem with the interesting moons like Callisto and Europa is that the liquid water oceans are dozens or hundreds of miles below the surface. Sure we might be able to sniff some pretty interesting stuff from ejected water, but the big finds on these moons are going to have to wait for future generations of equipment that can drill through kilometers of ice.

Mars is a reasonably good testing ground for this kind of tech. Not only is it an interesting body with a unique geology and a history that to a point wasn't so different from Earth's and at least a moderate candidate for some kind of life, but it is also considerably closer than Jupiter or Saturn. It serves as a great test bed for the kinds of probes we will likely end up sending to other bodies in the solar system.

I look at the Mars rovers as the best possible test bed for these new technologies, not only in building rugged mechanical systems that can survive intense temperature differentials, dust storms and climactic changes and even hard radiation, but also in the software. I expect with some of the major advances we're seeing in neural net development that by 2020 not only will the next rover be a more sophisticated machine, but it's brain will be considerably smarter too.

When you really think about it, NASA's Mars program is leading the way in highly sophisticated semi-autonomous probes. In a generation, we'll probably be able to launch the grandchildren of Curiosity to places like Titan and give them a far wider range of tools to explore.

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (1)

necro81 (917438) | about a year ago | (#42192161)

but the big finds on these moons are going to have to wait for future generations of equipment that can drill through kilometers of ice

I always figured that a Europa mission wouldn't drill its way down and bring material back to the surface, but rather would have its science instrumentation in a pod that would melt its way down. The lander would be a base station on the surface, mostly for communication, and the probe would use an RTG to gradually melt its way down, paying out a tether cable behind it. The melt-probe is on a one-way mission; the hole would progressively freeze behind it. Since the probe has the RTG, it may be that the surface lander gets powered by way of the tether, rather than having an independent supply. This configuration introduces significant mission risk, if the tether gets severed by shifting ice for instance. But risk is a part of exploration.

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (1)

jdray (645332) | about a year ago | (#42193567)

Sorry, but while your rudimentary concept is reasonable, one practicality stops it: at a certain point, the ice around the tether is going to freeze up, stopping the descent of the probe, which will end up hanging in its own little bubble of hot water. Now, studying that bubble might have some value, as we would probably find residue from whatever is in the ocean (if there's fish, we might find the up-welled bones and scales, for instance). Better to figure out some wireless communication technology that will work through several kilometers of ice without getting swamped in Jupiter's radiation output.

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42200411)

I think the GP meant that the tether would be spooled on the probe, not the surface lander, and so it would be payed out continually behind the probe as it descended. Sure, the tether would freeze in place, but why should that stop the probe's descent, since it can just unreel more as it goes along?

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42192373)

It's been more than 50 years that people have been promising (or dreaming of) "smarter" machines but we're not anywhere near something "smart".

Siri is not smart. Neural networks are not smart.

We're basically nowhere when it comes to "smart" or "AI".

The book "On Intelligence" is entirely dedicated to this topic and, basically, we're still nowhere.

By 2020 I'm betting with you that the difference is going to be basically the same as between 2004 and 2012. That is: really not much difference at all.

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42189155)

Shhhh. We're still busy deluding ourselves that there is or used to be life on Mars.

Once we're done with that, then we can start visiting interesting places.

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (1)

KeensMustard (655606) | about a year ago | (#42189263)

Alternatively we can scrap the 'manned' mission to Mars, and use those resources on the interesting projects, e.g. the outer moons, or the inner planets. We've been to Mars already. Nothing to see there. Move along.

Re:Look as much as I like Mars (1)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#42189319)

I would settle for taking the interim step of just building some shit on the moon. Preferably not M.A.D. nukes.

Launch is eight years away (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42188817)

And I'm already worried about the landing.

Re:Launch is eight years away (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42189549)

According to NASA, the landing system used for Curiosity was still not enough like a Wile E Coyote cartoon. Apparently the new landing system will involve a giant slingshot, a red boxing glove on a spring, an anvil, and several sticks of dynamite. The landing itself will be referred to as the 'seven minutes of hilarity' and will end with a perfectly rover-shaped hole being cut into the martian surface.

Re:Launch is eight years away (1)

Tarlus (1000874) | about a year ago | (#42192169)

...followed by a little robotic arm which extends from the hole, holding a sign that says, "Ouch!"

Do we need more Mars rovers? (4, Interesting)

Pausanias (681077) | about a year ago | (#42188835)

I think we pretty much established that there's nothing but rocks on Mars. [theonion.com]

Yes the rover flight and landing are marvels of engineering. There's no denying that. But can't we go somewhere new?

In all seriousness, I feel like geologists have taken over NASA and these rovers are their way of bringing fame and power to the discipline of studying rocks.

Let's take the first steps to go drilling into a subsurface ocean instead, shall we not?

Except for the other findings (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42189011)

Just rocks, along with water ice, CO2 ice, permafrost, and most and more hints of past liquid water. And dust devils. Also, far more detail about the formation and evolution of Mars (geologists do a bit more than say "that's a rock", they say "that's a rock from x years ago that was formed at y pressure and z temperature and its existence implies that processes a, b and c happened on this planet").

Though I disagree that there's nothing but rocks on Mars, I agree it would be more interesting to send probes elsewhere, such as Titan or Europa.

Re:Except for the other findings (1)

yahwotqa (817672) | about a year ago | (#42189569)

Just spread a rumor that dust devil nation is hiding weapons of mass destruction, and mankind will set foot on (heavily bombed by that time) surface of Mars in just a few years.

Re:Except for the other findings (1)

kimvette (919543) | about a year ago | (#42192735)

> And dust devils.

Note to NASA: Please include a video camera and microphone on a future rover. It would be interesting to experience the sounds of Mars - well, as much as the thin atmosphere would allow. Is it practical? It's as practical as anything else the rover does on a rock which at its absolute closest to us is about 34 million miles away from us, and which we will never set foot on because we do not fund NASA well enough. It would also be interesting to see temperature and wind speed posts on the mission site, in as near to realtime as relay times allow. It would also be nice for mission sites to be more user-friendly with more raw data made available to the people who actually pay for these missions.

Re:Do we need more Mars rovers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42189307)

Mars may serve other useful purpose. For example, as a storage of nuclear waste.

Re:Do we need more Mars rovers? (1)

hotcut (1289754) | about a year ago | (#42189465)

If we really wanted a place to get rid of that.... I think we can just send it on it's way out of the solar system, or probably easier into the sun. No need to land it somewhere, where we might in the future want to live.

Re:Do we need more Mars rovers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42193467)

Today it's "waste" because we don't know how to post-process it to extract the remaining huge amount of energy. In the future the tech will advance and we'll be able to use it. The biggest problem in today's nuclear industry is storage. Granted, we can use Moon for the same purpose.

Re:Do we need more Mars rovers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42189867)

I could not agree more. NASA bias for Mars is becoming tiresome. Recently, after the budget cuts, someone had managed to propose a mission that would have landed on Titan's lakes for only $425 M (search for TiME, "Titan Mare Explorer"). This was a once every 20 years opportunity to send a probe to the lakes without an expensive relay orbiter. In contrast there is an opportunity to send a probe to Mars every two years. Even though it fitted the meagre budget, NASA still chose yet another Mars lander. This after the $2.5 B Curiosity was already there and the MAVEN orbiter already approved. Now, another lander. NASA used to send missions to various worlds, now it's Mars, Mars and more Mars. It's an unhealthy obsession.
The choice of yet another Mars mission over TiME was one of the most stupid decision NASA has ever made together with the cancellation of SIM after spending $600 M on it. SIM would have found EVERY Earth mass world (or more) to 30 parsecs (possibly with some limitation on the less bright stars, not sure).

In any case Mars looks less and less habitable as the exploration proceeds and the money grows at the expense of everything else.
Mars looks deceptively like Earth but :
1) Three separate missions found no organics (Viking 1,2, Phoenix). They should be there at least delivered by meteors.
2) The place is bone dry : two separate RADAR missions (NASA SHARAD and ESA's MARSIS) found no subsurface water in appreciable amounts. Just dust and ice. Even under the polar caps where some residual heat should have created the equivalent of lake Vostok, nothing.
3) The place is geologically dead : not a hint of a warm spring or volcanic activity. If there was anything, Themis on Mars Odissey probe would have spotted it in the cold of the Martian night.
4) The soil as analyzed by Phoenix indicates an even more hostile environment to life than previously thought:
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=35954

After all this, NASA still redirects sparse funds to Mars only at the expense of everything else. There is a persistent talk of a sample return mission even when nothing worth returning for $6 B has been found. To me, in order to justify that kind of expense in the current budgetary climate, you would have to find strong signs of organics and/or fossils. Europa and Titan orbiters are indefinitely postponed.

Europa is a much more interesting target but the only science from there will probably come from two flyby from ESA in 2030. This is 35 years after the confirmation of an ocean there. NASA has proposed various missions, all cancelled and now all funds are flowing to Mars.
As a supporter of space exploration I am disgusted by current NASA bias towards Mars.

Re:Do we need more Mars rovers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42190197)

The focus on mars is because we eventually want to put humans on it.

Manned missions are messy and full of opportunities to contaminate Mars with Earth microbes, so by the point you actually send people, you have to be absolutely damned certain that there's no local life to screw up.

If we want a Mars colony, then cheer every time we find new evidence of Mars being a dead world.

Re:Do we need more Mars rovers? (1)

jdray (645332) | about a year ago | (#42193641)

you have to be absolutely damned certain that there's no local life to screw up.

Well, no you don't actually. We may want to, or choose to, but we don't have to. It's more likely that we'd find life there and use that as an argument in favor of moving there. If Mars is shown to support any kind of life, it will radically change the way we as a culture view our place in the universe, and likely touch off some sort of mass effort to spread ourselves around, alien bacteria, lichens, ichthyoids, and the rest be damned. It'll be Manifest Destiny all over again.

Re:Do we need more Mars rovers? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#42190489)

Welcome to the real world of science - it's not a video game, and it's nothing like Star Trek or the Discovery Channel would have you believe. It's deadly fucking dull and repetitive. It barely makes for decent writing and doesn't make decent TV at all.

But, it's how we (as a species) learn things. If you can figure out a better way, your name will be celebrated through the ages.

If you insist that we have to keep trying new and shiny things just to keep you excited, you're part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Re:Do we need more Mars rovers? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#42191619)

It's deadly fucking dull and repetitive. It barely makes for decent writing and doesn't make decent TV at all.

Which is why the space scientist is the cheapest part of a space science mission. People really love that deadly dullness and work cheap to get it.

What I want to know is (3, Interesting)

DiSKiLLeR (17651) | about a year ago | (#42188985)

What I want to know is.. when are they going to send a rover or lander which can test for biology? Like the viking landers from the 70s.. since then they've completely avoided sending any biology experiments to mars... despite finding water and other organic chemicals?

And yes, as someone else pointed out, why not make use of economics of scale and make multiple identical rovers and send them to multiple different places on the planet? It worked for Spirit and Opportunity, and instead of wasting so much money designing and building a new rover from scratch every time, build a more modular one and send many of them... even 1 every few years if 2 at once is too expensive. Modular so different experiences can be swapped in or out thus creating slightly different configurations or upgraded models ?

Why design and build from scratch every time and not just design a reliable base model, a lot like the Soyuz, and just slowly evolve it over time or fly it in slightly different configurations? I know a Soyuz capsule is nothing like a mars rover, but a soyuz capsule is human rated and still cheaper than a freaking rover. The same concepts could be applied.

Re:What I want to know is (5, Informative)

Isaac-1 (233099) | about a year ago | (#42189131)

Because when it comes to rovers the technology is already advancing at such a rate that by the time they are flight certified and ready to go they look like a model T Ford in comparison to the stuff being played with in the development labs.

Re:What I want to know is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42189947)

That is exactly the point. NASA is studiously avoiding to send a life finding mission. No life would mean no more funding and certainly no human Mars mission, their darling project. Instead they can keep sending Mars probes even when cancelling more of the other missions.

Re:What I want to know is (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#42190449)

And yes, as someone else pointed out, why not make use of economics of scale and make multiple identical rovers and send them to multiple different places on the planet?

You don't get much economy of scale until you're building them practically on an assembly line - which doesn't make much sense considering that you need to incorporate the science and engineering lessons learned into subsequent models. Those changes eat up most of any possible savings unless you're churning them out in the double digits annually. The next problem is communications - we're already straining the available bandwidth. This is fixable, but it will eat up years of any savings. The last problem is that each and every rover will require a full time mission support team - again, eating deeply into your savings. (If not wiping them out completely once you consider the capital costs of building all the infrastructure each team will require.)
 
As I've said before, "economy of scale" isn't a magic spell you can simply invoke and save money. As usual, the real world is rather more complicated than that.
 

I know a Soyuz capsule is nothing like a mars rover

That's your answer right there.

Re:What I want to know is (1)

kimvette (919543) | about a year ago | (#42192919)

> You don't get much economy of scale until you're building them practically on an assembly line - which doesn't make much sense considering that you need to incorporate the science and engineering lessons learned into subsequent models. Those changes eat up most of any possible savings unless you're churning them out in the double digits annually.

Which we do not want to do, considering how quickly technology is advancing. I'd rather the little funding we do provide NASA go into the latest and greatest tech - better camera sensors, better solar, battery/fuel cell and RTG supplies, better processors, and so on to build one or two probes every few years than to build the tooling and mass produce a whole bunch of sorely outdated SUVs for Mars. As it is, the current camera sensors on Curiousity are woefully outdated because of the lag time between selecting components, actually building and testing the probe, and getting it off this rock safely onto another rock 50 million miles away. :-(

Re:What I want to know is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42191427)

I'd like to know why they haven't sent a nuclear-powered robot capable of smelting iron ore and building structures. For that matter, couldn't the laser on Curiosity be used for SLM manufacturing by fusing Martian dust? It's not the intended use for the laser spectrometer and would be extremely slow, but if it works, why not?

But... ExoMars... :-( (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42189507)

NASA abandoned the partnership with ESA on the ExoMars program, scheduled for 2018. http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/programmissions/missions/future/mars2018/
Now it announces a 2020 mission. Why the change of heart? Is an ESA partnership uncomfortable for them and prefer to play on their own sandbox by themselves? What gives?

Re:But... ExoMars... :-( (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42189911)

Probably more to do with the methodology planned in the ExoMars rover. Did they ever come up with a viable fetch mechanism concept for the samples the initial rover was originally intended to collect?

If current technology allows them to include suitable test equipment right ON the rovers themselves, it seems silly to work around a premise of collecting samples with one missions device, and then working out a means of sending a SECOND device to not only be able to escape Mars' gravity well but also re-enter the earths atmosphere, land, get collected, and be secured by the mission planners to THEN do tests on. OR only slightly better, send a secondary lab rover designed to retrieve the samples and be able to perform tests on them there with the potential of failure of either device pooching the entirety of both mission segments.

I think someone went "you know this is kind of a stupid idea" halfway down the line of recent technological advancements.

Re:But... ExoMars... :-( (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#42191717)

If current technology allows them to include suitable test equipment right ON the rovers themselves, it seems silly to work around a premise of collecting samples with one missions device, and then working out a means of sending a SECOND device to not only be able to escape Mars' gravity well but also re-enter the earths atmosphere, land, get collected, and be secured by the mission planners to THEN do tests on. OR only slightly better, send a secondary lab rover designed to retrieve the samples and be able to perform tests on them there with the potential of failure of either device pooching the entirety of both mission segments.

I would call the idea of two probes, one to collect samples and one to ship them to Earth, a brilliant, well-thought division of labor. Testing Mars samples on Earth will be a huge advance in science and worth the complexity and risk of this mission. Please keep in mind that one can make multiple copies of both sorts of probes and resend either one, if it fails.

Europa! (0)

Flipstylee (1932884) | about a year ago | (#42189995)

Fuck Mars! The moon makes a good jumping off point, and Mars a good checkpoint,
but NASA funding has been dwindling and they're already doing everything BUT dropping
shit on Europa. /rant

Seriously though, we've got a SCIENCE TANK on Mars... for old riverbeds and regolith.

Onward!

economics (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year ago | (#42190321)

Let's remember that this second mission is sort of a freebie.

Certainly they have a COMPLETE second mockup of the rover at NASA for troubleshooting, and *often* they have a third unit because in the development stage building a third is almost cost free (generally multiple copies of each component are made as backups, if they're never used you have essentially a full third device waiting in parts bins).

So aside from the launch costs, the equipment is PROBABLY already paid for.

Further, it's not a bad idea to throw another rover out there if we can, to cover more ground as a prep for a manned mission. If you can have 2 rovers crawling over Mars for 2 years, that doubles your chance they they find something interesting to both be WORTH investigating with a manned mission, and (if you're really lucky) find something that radically increases public (congressional) interest in sending that mission.

(Meanwhile, we're continuing to explore the rest of the system with, for example, a planned mission to Titan's ocean IIRC - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/ [nasa.gov] )

Re:economics (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#42191903)

Eh, at $1.5 billion, there's a hell of a lot of cost from somewhere other than launch and operations. It sounds to me like in the ballpark of building an MSL from scratch, to be honest.

Curiosity's twin brother (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42191913)

Well, from what i've read else where, this 2020 rover is being assembled from spare parts for Curiosity. Exploring the planet will be interesting, but sounds like their trying use every cheap means to do it. I'd would have like to see Blimp drone they were talking about while ago to explore surface in way Rovers can't. The Atmosphere is thin, but i do think it flyable.

We really need return mission done, hopefully Spacex can work out the bugs out of Dragon so it would be reliable enough to do their Red Dragon mission.

Um, I got ahold of the new rover plans... (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | about a year ago | (#42192907)

~...Is this right? Why does it have 3 inch armor plating, a 5000hp rock drill, and, what are these, missiles?

. ~ Ah, yes, well, when we did that "big reveal" this week, we didn't reveal everything. Loose lips and all that.

.

Remember when? Manned Mission to Mars 2020 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42194797)

http://www.spacedaily.com/news/mars-manned-01c.html

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

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